Politics on TV: Tuesday, Sept. 25 edition

Talk of the day: Email, privacy, Harper at the UN, children in Syria, Canada and trade, needle-exchange programs in prisons

Harper v. The Judges

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Message of the day “Stephen Harper should be at the United Nations”

Questions not answered

• Should MPs be able to mine petitions for email addresses?
• Where does the NDP want to draw the line around online privacy?

Online privacy:

Power & Politics asked a panel of MPs about the right to use email addresses harvested from a petition. It’s a question that came up after reports exposed an email sent to GLBT voters by Jason Kenney. Rick Dykstra said it was simply about updating the people who contacted Kenney about the case of a gay refugee (in fact, the email was general back-patting). Charmaine Borg spoke about the need for boundaries when it comes to online privacy. Joyce Murray says the GLBT community is uncomfortable with this email. When she pointed out that Kenney appointed openly homophobic judges to the Immigration and Refugee Board, Dykstra took umbrage.

Chris Hall spoke to Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart who explained that while it’s not for her to say if MPs are abusing such data, she hopes a report from her office will inspire privacy legislation to cover political parties. Conversation then moved to a new report on privacy “leakage” which occurs when sites that require login information turn around and sell the data to third parties without consent. One in four of the sites sampled engage in the practice. Stoddard says she’s given the sites three weeks to get back to her with a plan on fixing the situation.

Power Play also spoke to Stoddart. She explained that her report represents a sample of websites, including some major ones. She would not name names, though warned that she might  if they don’t mend their ways. She noted that these companies are either monetizing personal information without permission – which is illegal – or they’re using it carelessly, which is no excuse either.

UN General Assembly:

Don Martin spoke to former Foreign Affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy about the UN General Assembly. Axworthy said the institution is being bypassed in an increasing number of cases, especially as Syria and Iran have signalled a return to “bare-knuckle politics.” Axworthy explained that the UN is about more than just speeches — it’s about hallway meetings and one-on-one encounters between world leaders — all of which Harper will miss. Axworthy said that given the stalemate with China and Russia on Syria, the UN needs a soft-power champion — another reason Canada’s absence is being deeply felt.

Children in Syria:

Power Play spoke to Dr. Samantha Nutt of Warchild Canada about the Save the Children United Kingdom report on children being tortured and used as human shields in Syria. Nutt says 65 per cent of the 300,000 refugees are children, while hundreds of thousands more are affected by the violence.

Chris Hall talked to an MP panel about the report. Lois Brown said all sides in the Commons have condemned the situation. She noted that Canada has committed $18.5 million to Syria through the World Food Programme, the UNHCR, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent. Paul Dewar called Syria a problem with no solution. Dominic LeBlanc urged Harper to meet with Arab leaders and Russia and China in New York later this week. He pointed out that Senator Romeo Dallaire has said we must move beyond “responsibility to protect” into the “will to intervene.”

Trade with China:

Chris Hall spoke to John Manley of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which is encouraging Canada to get more engaged with ASEAN and conclude trade negotiations with Korea, Singapore and the TPP. The organization says it does not think the Canadian government is as prepared as other governments to deal with Asian economies, pointing to the success that Australia and New Zealand have had with China. Manley said reciprocity with China won’t happen, so we should be talking instead about leverage.

Don Martin convened an MP panel on the issue during which Megan Leslie said the government lacks a coherent trade policy and ships raw resources at the expense of “value-added jobs.” Roger Cuzner noted that time had been lost since Jean Chrétien led “Team Canada” missions to China. James Rajotte said the government has been aggressive on the trade file since 2006 and has signed a number of deals.

Prison needle exchange:

Don Martin spoke with Sandra Ka Hon Chu about the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network‘s legal challenge to ensure needle-exchange programs are extended into prisons. She said injection drug use results in HIV and Hepatitis C infection rates that are between 10 and 30 times higher in prisons than in the general community. She noted that prison needle exchanges, which exist in 60 other countries, have reduced infections and get more inmates into drug treatment programs. She said she has no doubt the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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