Harper Watch, August 1 to August 20, 2014


COMMENTARY

ipolitics – Harper hears you. Now shut up.
What if your parents used your allowance to convince you that you really wanted Brussels sprouts for dinner, not a fruit salad?
Turns out that’s what the Harper government has been doing to Canadians for years. While Canadians have been polled and focused-grouped ad nauseum on their policy priorities — which, consistently, are health care, education, the environment, pensions and veterans — they’ve instead been fed a steady diet of made-in-Alberta priorities: skills development, Employment Insurance reform, temporary foreign workers and plenty of pipelines.

Embassy – Strange things under the Ottawa sun
Four “strange things” stand out in actions of the Harper government. The first is its hyper-partisanship; the second is its unwillingness to see science as a necessary aid to good governance or to appreciate the need to seek or accept expert advice; third, its willingness to attack and denigrate the basic institutions of democratic government such as the courts and Elections Canada; and fourth, its zealousness in pushing change, knowing it did not meet or was unlikely to meet the test of fealty to existing laws or to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Star – Stephen Harper fails to see that World War I was a mistake: Walkom
Stephen Harper describes World War I as a noble conflict.
It was not. It was a bloody and largely pointless war, whose roots lay in the imperial pretensions of competing European powers and whose proximate causes were hubris and miscalculation.
That Harper thinks otherwise would matter little if he were an ordinary citizen. But he is prime minister. And, as he made clear in a speech Monday, he views current conflicts through the prism of the 1914-18 Great War.

Huffington Post – Connecting The Dots Between Mount Polley Mine Owner, Squamish LNG, Harper
The more the people of B.C. understand the connections between Harper’s Conservative party, Premier Clark’s LNG aspirations, and the players in the Woodfibre LNG proposal, the more foul it looks. Whether for us in Squamish or surrounding communities like West Vancouver.

(And speaking of Imperial Metals – a blast from the past, but still relevant in Harperland)

CBC – Lakes across Canada face being turned into mine dump sites
CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly “reclassified” as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland. Environmentalists say the process amounts to a “hidden subsidy” to mining companies, allowing them to get around laws against the destruction of fish habitat. CBC News visited two examples of Schedule Two lakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Vale Inco company wants to use a prime destination for fishermen known as Sandy Pond to hold tailings from a nickel processing plant. In northern B.C., Imperial Metals plans to enclose a remote watershed valley to hold tailings from a gold and copper mine. The valley lies in what the native Tahltan people call the “Sacred Headwaters” of three major salmon rivers. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the dump site.

HARPER IN COURT AGAIN

Ottawa Citizen – Prominent Ottawa judge strikes down mandatory victim surcharge
An Ottawa judge who is recognized as one of the country’s most pre-eminent legal minds has struck down the Conservative government’s mandatory victim surcharge as unconstitutional.
In a carefully reasoned, 31-page decision released Thursday, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco found that a reasonable person who was properly informed would find $900 in mandatory victim surcharges for addicted, impoverished and troubled Inuit offender Shaun Michael so grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency.

Huffington Post – Nunavut Planning Commission Suing Federal Government
An Arctic planning body has taken the federal government to court, claiming Ottawa is blocking efforts to create a land-use plan that would guide resource development in Nunavut.
Commission head Percy Kabloona, who says the lawsuit is the first of several to come, has accused the Conservatives of trying to interfere in the plan’s development and to block its final steps.

TAXPAYERS WORKING HARD FOR HARPER

The Star – Ottawa’s spin doctor payroll rivals that of the Commons
When we’re spending nearly as much on spin as we are on the House of Commons, we’re on a very slippery slope indeed.
Last week, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released the head count and salary costs of the federal government’s legion of information services staff.
The numbers, released in response to an access to information request, reveal that 3,325 spin doctors toil for the Harper government at an estimated cost this year of $263 million.

ATTACK ON (CERTAIN) CHARITIES

Globe and Mail – Canada Revenue Agency refuses to divulge audit tactics targeting charities
The federal government has denied a freedom-of-expression charity’s request for auditors’ guidelines on political activity, saying revealing how the Canada Revenue Agency conducts audits could hamper their work.
Since Ottawa first started cracking down on political activities among charities in 2012, Pen Canada has filed a series of access-to-information requests seeking, among other things, the criteria auditors use to determine what, exactly, constitutes political activity.

CANADA OR HARPERLAND?

rabble.ca – Do Canadians share Israel’s values ‘through Fire and Water’?
In mid-July the Harper government quietly released a campaign-style video called Through Fire and Water. In it, Canada’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister strongly reassert our support for Israel amid the violence in Gaza. The video proclaims that “Canada and Israel are the Greatest of Friends, and the most natural of allies” and that it is the “Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”

The Star – Ottawa’s pro-Israeli message goes beyond more measured global response: Tim Harper
As the world watched the civilian death toll in Gaza climb over the weekend, the international response was largely built on three pillars.
Most capitals emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself, the need to protect innocent civilians and the need for a mutual ceasefire.
But in Canada, the tone and the message were different.
Israel had not just the right to defend itself, but the obligation, according to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
The end to the conflict was the responsibility of Hamas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

CBC – Court system essential part of democracy: Canadian Bar Association
Canadians should not be worried about the judicial system undermining democracy, says the president of the Canadian Bar Association, in response to recent comments by Conservative parliamentarians criticizing and questioning the judiciary. “The courts are essential and integral to a democracy. They play a very important role in the citizens’ ability to see that justice is done, to protect their rights and to see that laws are adopted and applied properly, Fred Headon told CBC Radio’s The House in an interview.   A week ago, Conservative MP Dan Albas said some groups are now using courts to do an “end-run” around the democratic process. Albas suggested citizens are losing if “unelected judges” can overturn policy decisions made by the government.

HARPER THE FAUX ECONOMIST

Canadian Business – The U.S. has become a job-creating machine while Canada sputters: Mike Moffatt
The United States has outperformed Canada by this metric in 23 of the 30 months from January 2012 to June 2014 (the Canadian July 2014 data has yet to be released), with the U.S. averaging 1.34% growth relative to Canada’s 0.97%.

Macleans – The case of the disappearing Statistics Canada data
The Great Statistics Canada 200-Jobs Mystery is generating loads of headlines, as it should. The botched labour report for July, which, initially, and erroneously, claimed Canada produced just 200 jobs that month, has once again sparked questions about the quality of Canada’s statistical data. (Revised figures are due Friday). But this is far from the only thing troubling regular StatsCan users. I made the following chart to illustrate one of the great frustrations that journalists, economists and academics have with StatsCan. One minute, the agency, tasked with measuring the tick tock of the economy and society, tracks seemingly vital data (such as detailed breakdowns of public sector employment and wages by all levels of government, or the total value of government transfer payments to persons by province and type of transfer), the next, *poof*, they’re terminated.

The Globe and Mail – That strong recovery? It was just a myth
The argument that Canada outperformed the rest of the world was overstated at the best of times. Even in the early years of recovery, several other countries (including Germany, South Korea, Australia) did much better at protecting employment and rebuilding incomes. But with the rest of the world now gaining serious economic momentum, Canada’s boastful claims are increasingly far-fetched. Far from leading, we now lag other countries, and our relative underperformance is getting worse.

VETERANS

Huffington Post – Veterans Affairs Posting ‘Extremely Misleading’ Information, Critics Say
OTTAWA – The Harper government has taken to social media to make the case that it’s being generous to disabled veterans, but critics and the opposition say Conservatives are posting misleading information.
Stoffer said the government is throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, into the calculations knowing full well the vast majority of soldiers never collect benefits that get anywhere near those numbers.

Global News – Fantino’s office calls peacekeeping veteran’s story ‘completely false’
OTTAWA – The office of Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino says a peacekeeping veteran’s suggestion that he was asked to write a politician’s speech for a commemorative ceremony is “completely false.”
But Wayne Mac Culloch, national president for the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, insists he was told by a department official he had to write parliamentary secretary Parm Gill’s speech if he wanted anyone from the Harper government to attend National Peacekeepers’ Day in Ottawa on Sunday.

Halifax Herald – Veterans across Canada plot campaign against Conservatives
A network of veterans across Canada is planning a co-ordinated campaign against the Conservative government during next year’s election.
The plan was sparked in January by a disastrous meeting in Ottawa with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. In interviews, half a dozen organizers across four provinces say thousands of veterans will take part in the movement.
The plan is similar to the ABC campaign — urging people to vote Anything But Conservative — waged by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams.

FIRST NATIONS

CBC – Program that helped special needs children on reserves loses funding
A Regina-based program that helped special needs children has lost funding from the federal government to provide services to families living on reserves.
The Early Childhood Intervention Program, which helps developmentally-delayed children in their early years, used funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to train workers and travel to reserves. Funding, which was used to help about 150 youngsters on reserves, amounted to $800,000 and ended in June. The non-profit which runs the program will continue to offer services, but only to Regina clients.

The Globe and Mail – Why the First Nations transparency act is an insult to my people

Eden Robinson is the award-winning author of the novel Monkey Beach.

I don’t speak for anyone but myself. I’m not an elected official, nor am I an elder, nor do I have an important, hereditary name. I’m a novelist from the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations of British Columbia, both small, coastal reserves hugging the rugged shores of the west coast. Although I don’t profess to be the voice of my people, I can offer a few insights.

ENVIRONMENT

Northumberland View: NAFTA takes notice: Canada is ignoring its own environmental laws

(Thanks to one of our readers for this one!)

How long can an industry and a government completely disregard a nation’s laws that are intended to protect that country’s citizens? That’s the question that continues to be asked about tar sands companies and the Canadian government, when it comes to the tailings ponds leaking toxic waste into rivers in Alberta.

Huffington Post – Government Memo Criticized Top Biologist For Comments On Oilsands
One of Canada’s top biologists says he will not stop talking to the media after a government memo accused him of bias and speaking out of turn about the environmental impact of Alberta’s oilsands.
Queen’s University professor John Smol said Monday he was shocked and outraged to learn earlier this month of an internal Natural Resources Canada memo criticizing him over comments he made to reporters about a study on lakes near the oilsands.

CORRUPTION ABOUNDS IN HARPERLAND

The Globe and Mail – Canada ranked worst of G7 nations in fighting bribery, corruption

Canada has again been scolded on the international stage for its “lack of progress” in fighting bribery and corruption by a watchdog agency that ranks it among the worst of nearly 40 countries.
Transparency International, a group that monitors global corruption, put Canada in the lowest category of countries with “little or no enforcement” when it comes to applying bribery standards set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

HARPER’S EVIL PLANS FOILED AGAIN!

Ottawa Citizen – Doctors pull out of Conservative government’s anti-pot ads
Three leading doctors’ groups will not participate in a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign against marijuana, saying the ads had become a “political football” in the debate over legal status of the drug.
In a rare joint statement issued Saturday, the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada said they would decline Health Canada’s invitation to endorse a campaign on the dangers of marijuana use by young people.

 

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Harper Watch, July 19 to July 31, 2014


COMMENTARY

Feature Letter:

West Coast Native News – Six Hundred Reasons why Harper is a scumbag

(…and counting)

There are THOUSANDS of serious and corrupt issues which Harper and the Conservatives should be held accountable for, and, based on that message you conveyed to Canadians, you are typical of Canada’s Main Stream Media falling asleep at the switch. The following are six hundred of thousands of reasons your pages should constantly be screaming blue murder about Canada’s destruction by Harper and EVERY Conservative MP, (all voting as a unified caucus).

The Globe and Mail – The Conservatives are a ‘cruel and unusual’ government
If a policy is cruel and unusual, if it outrages our standards of decency, what do we make of those promoting it? It’s not as if the policy to deny health care is unique in the annals of Harperland. On the contrary, just in the past weeks at least two other government positions seem to reflect some pretty unusual cruelty and indecency: one related to Omar Khadr, the other to prostitution. But nor is the refugee health care issue yet over.

rabble.ca – The Canada Revenue Agency becomes an arm of the PMO
The Canada Revenue Agency is currently auditing several Canadian charities, sniffing around for suspect “political activity.” The list of targets reads like a Who’s Who of Canadian charitable institutions: Amnesty International Canada is included, and so is Kairos, stupidly denounced as “anti-Semitic” a few years back by the egregiously dishonest Minister Jason Kenney; the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, PEN Canada, Canada Without Poverty, even the United Church of Canada.
It appears, and by no coincidence, that the Knights of Columbus and the Fraser Institute, both of which wade frequently into politics, have been spared a visit from the Grand Inquisitor.

Ottawa Citizen – Andrew Cohen: Canada’s absolutist foreign policy
Oh, to be Canada in the world today, the country that is right about everything.
If one were looking for a word to describe our foreign policy this anxious summer, it would be absolutist. Our view of the world is black and white, right and wrong. It suggests extra-sensory powers of perception.
It is not new to call Canada a moral superpower. The well-worn term has been around for decades, a byword for a self-righteousness that inclines us to lecture and declaim.
This is now the fashion among the Conservatives. It is megaphone diplomacy – utterly confident and remarkably free of tentativeness.

ipolitics – Linda McQuaig: Why is Harper punishing charities while letting tax cheats off the hook?
This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.
Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.

Huffington Post – Murtaza Haider: When Harper Killed the Census He Robbed Canadians
An ad in the Globe and Mail reveals the extent of harm the Harper Conservatives have inflicted on Statistics Canada. Because of poor quality, Statistics Canada is not releasing data at finer spatial scales because the Harper Conservatives killed the mandatory long-form Census and replaced it with a voluntary survey of dubious quality. The Conservatives’ attack on the Census not only cost Canadians their most valuable source of information, it also led to the departure of Canada’s leading civil servant, Dr. Munir Sheikh, who in July 2010 resigned his position as Canada’s chief statistician to protect the integrity of the institution he led.

The Star – PEN audit will come back to haunt Tories
Because PEN is a writers’ organization, I’d say it’s appropriate to describe its current plight as profoundly Kafka-esque. Institutionally, PEN has an encyclopedic knowledge of the overt and subtle techniques that totalitarian governments deploy to harass critics and cut off their oxygen supply. And it’s not always about throwing writers and journalists in jail. There are myriad other ways to achieve similar ends, and PEN Canada (along with other groups) was absolutely correct in identifying the government’s campaign against Canada’s scientists and environmental advocacy groups as salient examples.
Now, in a richly ironic twist, PEN must add its experiences with “advocacy chill” to this long, shameful list, and do so at the moment when the Harper regime is noisily, and hypocritically, decrying human rights abuses by Russia.

GAZA

rabble.ca – ‘The Right to Protect’ and the loss of Parliament’s moral compass
People who claim, as Netanyahu and Baird do, that Israel’s blockade and the present bombing campaign are only because of Gaza’s Hamas government should read Drinking the Sea at Gaza by Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who lived and worked in Gaza for several years. Published in 1996, it documents the Israeli-imposed violence, wanton destruction of property, bureaucratic restrictions on business, curtailed freedom of the press, arrests, interrogation and imprisonment that Gazans faced a decade before Hamas came to power.
The attack on Gaza cannot be justified in the name of security; it makes Israel less secure by sowing seeds of hopelessness, hatred and the desire for revenge in the hearts of many who have had friends or family members brutally killed or wounded. It will make Hamas stronger not weaker. What then lies behind the attack?

WRONG AGAIN

Huffington Post – Harper’s Spat With Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin Was Wrong: Legal Group
(Harper apologize? LOL) 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s public criticism of Canada’s top justice impugned her integrity and was tantamount to undue interference with the independence of the courts, according to an international group of eminent judges and lawyers.
As a result, the International Commission of Jurists says Harper should withdraw his remarks and he and Justice Minister Peter MacKay should apologize to Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Hill Times – Bill C-36 ‘absolute gold’ for Tory Party base, says pollster Lyle
Valerie Scott, one of the plaintiffs named in last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision in Bedford v. Attorney General of Canada and legal coordinator for Sex Professionals of Canada, says that many sex workers feel “burned” by the fact that some of their clientele are affiliated with the Conservative Party and support Bill C-36, which passed the House committee stage last week.
“If I were to tell you about every MP, MPP, and city councillor that I either know or know of who is a client of sex workers, it would really shake things up a bit, and I’m not the only one,” Ms. Scott told The Hill Times in a phone interview. “We don’t see anything wrong with people seeing sex workers because that’s what we do, but given the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party pushing through legislation that will cause us catastrophic harm, some sex workers are saying, ‘Gee, maybe they need a taste of their own medicine.’”

Huffington Post – Harper Government Policies Don’t Match Canadians’ Priorities, Public Opinion Research Finds
Public-opinion research for the federal Finance Department suggests key government policies are out of step with Canadians’ priorities, including the Northern Gateway project.
Members of focus groups consulted prior to the February budget had “little enthusiasm” for the proposed bitumen pipeline to the British Columbia coast — even those who said they support the controversial project.
And among the 12 groups consulted — from Coquitlam, B.C., to Bridgewater, N.S. — the economy itself was not a top-of-mind concern.
Rather, the groups spontaneously raised education, health care, pensions and veterans as their key issues.

GOTTA LOVE THE DUFF

Huffington Post – Mike Duffy May Be Harper’s Top Political Opponent Heading Into 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a new political opponent to contend with heading into the 2015 election, one that has the potential to inflict more significant damage than Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau.
Former Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy will have his day in court on 31 charges ranging from bribery to breach of trust in relation to a host of alleged misuses of public funds.
The legal machinations could very well unfold in the run-up to the federal election scheduled for the fall of next year, keeping the details alive in the headlines.

The Economist – The Duffy disaster
SENATOR Mike Duffy has been living in a political twilight zone ever since questions were raised about his housing and travel expenses. First he was railroaded out of the Conservative party’s caucus; late last year he was suspended from the Senate altogether. One way or another, a denouement is now approaching. On July 17th the national police force charged Mr Duffy with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
That threatens more embarrassment to the ruling Conservatives. Stephen Harper, the prime minister, came to power in 2006 promising to deliver clean and transparent government—in contrast to the defeated Liberals, who had been tainted by an advertising-spending scandal. It was he who handpicked the veteran television journalist for a Senate seat in 2009. Mr Duffy is one of three former Conservatives suspended from the Senate over expense claims. (A Liberal senator whose spending was questioned repaid the amount and resigned.)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he doesn’t have useful information for suspended senator Mike Duffy’s trial
Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not intend to testify in the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy because he doesn’t have any useful information to offer, his office said Tuesday.
RCMP laid 31 criminal charges against Duffy last week related to his disputed expenses, and experts say it’s likely that Harper could be called to testify in relation to the bribery charges Duffy faces, although he could invoke parliamentary privilege to avoid the witness box.
On Tuesday his director of communications, Jason MacDonald, said in an email that Harper doesn’t have helpful information.

DIRTY DEEDS 

The Star – Conservative government censored memo on environmental group
“It used to be that the government saw information from non-governmental organizations as valuable,” said Josh Brandon, who volunteers as chairman of the network.
“That’s not happening anymore. I don’t know where they’re getting their policy expertise. But it often feels that decisions are made from a political perspective without consulting science.”

Vancouver Observer – CRA smacks PEN Canada with audit in latest of Harper government’s attack on charities
“Now’s the time to support PEN Canada, faced with a punishing audit by the Harper Conservatives,” renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood tweeted today. “Why does the freedom of expression threaten them?”
PEN Canada, a small charity which represents 1,000 writers and supporters including Atwood and Nobel Prize-winning writer Alice Munro, is the latest charity to audited by Canada Revenue Agency for taking part in ‘political activities’. The small charity — which only had one to two full-time staff in recent years — has criticized the Harper government in the past, particularly around the government’s muzzling of scientists.

Huffington Post – Canada Revenue Agency: ‘Preventing Poverty’ Not Allowed As Goal For Charity
The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.
The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada’s charitable sector.

CTV News – Charities may be asked for donor lists under minister’s CRA proposal
Canadian charities would have to turn over lists of their donors’ identities to the Canada Revenue Agency under a proposal being floated by the Conservative government.
The move is touted as a way to prevent tax-receipt fraud, but some charities are wary of the administrative burden — and the potential close surveillance of groups that criticize government policies.

Winnipeg Free Press – Glover staffers remove ugly details from Wikipedia
Staff of Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover anonymously edited her Wikipedia page to remove controversial details about her run-ins with Elections Canada.
The information disappeared last week and involved a 2013 request by Elections Canada that the Saint Boniface Conservative MP be suspended because she filed inaccurate campaign spending reports. The missing sentences were quickly restored by Wikipedia editors.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK FOR HARPER

Maclean’s – Internal report questions Canada’s bilateral missions to Ukraine 
A new internal government report has once again raised questions about the Harper government’s penchant for sending large teams of Canadian election monitors to Ukraine. The March report, prepared by an outside consultant for the Foreign Affairs Department, is the latest in a series of internal government assessments that raise red flags about the missions. The reports began in 2004 under the Liberals and have been repeatedly embraced by the Conservatives, most recently in May. Ottawa sent about 350 people to monitor the May 25 presidential ballot in Ukraine in a Canadian-led bilateral mission. Approximately 150 went as part of a separate multinational effort led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is seen as the most credible international body for conducting such missions. The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the independent audit of Canada’s Election Observation Missions program, known as EOM, which notes that the multilateral OSCE missions are widely viewed as a much better idea than the Canadian bilateral ones.

GREAT JOB STEVE!

 

CBC News – Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list
Canada has slipped out of the top 10 countries listed in the annual United Nation’s human development index — a far cry from the 1990s when it held the first place for most of the decade.
The 2013 report, which reviews a country’s performance in health, education and income, places Canada in 11th place versus 10th last year.
A closer look at the trends shows Canada actually did better than last year, but other countries such as Japan and Australia improved at a greater rate.
When the numbers are adjusted for gender inequality, Canada slumps to 18th place. The United States fares even worse — sinking from third to 42nd place.
“I think it’s really sad to see that we’ve dropped so far under the Conservatives,” said deputy NDP leader Megan Leslie.

The Globe and Mail – Ukraine has not received Canadian aid promised months ago, ambassador says
Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada says financial aid Ottawa pledged four months ago has not yet materialized and a request for non-lethal equipment has gone unanswered.
Canada announced a $200-million-plus financial package for Ukraine in mid-March and that same month Kiev asked Ottawa and other NATO allies for supplies to bolster its fight against pro-Russian separatists . It wants equipment such as body armour, communication technology and medical supplies.

 

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Harper Watch, July 1 to July 18, 2014


COMMENTARY

The Star – Mainstay of Canada’s literacy movement topples: Goar
A sad farewell note is all that remains of Copian.
It closed its doors quietly after 25 years at the nucleus of Canada’s community literacy network, leaving behind this online message: “We’re sorry! As a result of the withdrawal of funding from the Government of Canada we are no longer able to provide you with the information you are seeking.”
The non-profit organization, previously known as the National Adult Literacy Database, provided hundreds of grassroots groups, local libraries and new readers with access to the best the material in the field and an online training centre.

Globe and Mail – Fix the link where science and policy meet
The connection between science and public policy within the federal government is broken, and the consequences for Canada are becoming disastrous. We propose four ways to fix this problem.
But first, how is the connection broken, and why should Canadians care?
The federal government has severely degraded its internal scientific capacity, including its ability to perform and publicize its own scientific research, track outside scientific research, and monitor and assess policy issues with complex scientific content.

Huffington Post – How Tories Bully Charities and Abuse Power
Canadian charities are experiencing an “advocacy chill” and changing the way they go about their work as a result of what they say is “bullying” by the Harper Conservative government. My just completed Master’s thesis research finds that the denunciatory rhetoric of government ministers against charities, followed by stepped up audits is having its toll not only on charity operations, but also on the strength of Canada’s public discussions and thus on the vigor of democracy itself.

Montreal Gazette – Coyne: Conservatives’ incoherence really shows with Charter of Rights discontent
“I’m all for rights and freedoms,” he said, “but the Charter complicates things.” The problem, as far as rights and freedoms are concerned, is that we have “complicated” them by writing them into law.
This is a common refrain among conservatives. We’d always gotten along fine without a written constitution, you will sometimes hear them say, in the apparent belief that the British North America Act, not to mention Magna Carta, the Petition of Right and the Bill of Rights 1689, were elaborate works of mime. The idea of codifying rights in law they tend to regard as a vaguely Gallic plot, perhaps forgetting Canada’s original Bill of Rights, the handiwork of a certain John George Diefenbaker.

Globe and Mail – Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen
Of course Canadians found guilty of crimes in credible courts of law should be punished according to the law, and they are. But Bill C-24 gives the government the power to revoke citizenship as some kind of additional penalty. It is redundant in cases where a citizen is in fact guilty of a crime. It is downright dangerous for those who are not. Under the new law, for example, Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy could be stripped of his Canadian citizenship because he was convicted of terrorism by an Egyptian court. Ottawa has said it would not apply the law in Mr. Fahmy’s case, but the mere fact that it has had to answer the question should give us all pause.

GAZA

CTV News – Canada calls out UN for criticizing Israel’s response to Gaza rockets
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the UN High Commissioner’s criticism of Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza are uncalled for.
Navi Pillay said this week that there should be an immediate ceasefire, citing reports of many civilian casualties.
A council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.

DUFFY

The Star – RCMP lay 31 criminal charges against Senator Mike Duffy
Mike Duffy’s fall from grace took another stunning tumble Thursday as Mounties charged the suspended senator with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with the alleged misuse of taxpayers’ funds.
The charges set the stage for a dramatic trial involving a high-profile witness list that could include Nigel Wright, the former top aide to Stephen Harper, Conservative senators and perhaps even the prime minister.

The Star – Stephen Harper in the witness box now a possibility: Tim Harper
Could we one day see Stephen Harper sitting under oath in the witness box being cross-examined by counsel for disgraced suspended Sen. Mike Duffy?
Thursday, that question moved beyond the theoretical to the distinctly possible.
There would be a lot of twists and turns in this saga before we get there, but this we do know — a Conservative government that had been looking at the end of a tunnel on the Senate-PMO scandal can now see only another tunnel.

Huffington Post – Harper Must Answer For Duffy’s Crimes
It’s a terribly sad day for Parliament when a member of the Senate gets hauled before the criminal courts to face 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. The formal trial of Mike Duffy is about to begin.
But his personal fate is no longer “the main event.”
Duffy fell from grace in the eyes of Canadians a long time ago. His unravelling circumstances have become almost farcical. The most important aspects of this painful saga are now his intimate interconnections with the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party and the Harper government.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Now Mike Duffy has been charged, the truth about the government’s role can emerge
While Mr. Duffy is the one facing charges, he was only ever part of the story. Beyond the immediate matter of his guilt or innocence, his trial will be of interest for the chance it affords to get some answers, at last, to those larger questions I mentioned. Mr. Wright will almost certainly be called as a witness. Given Mr. Duffy’s contention that he is being made a scapegoat by those higher up, others in the government may be as well — perhaps even the prime minister.

ENVIRONMENT

Canada.com – Harper government scraps 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects
The Harper government’s budget legislation has forced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to cancel nearly 3,000 screenings into potential environmental damage caused by proposed development projects across Canada, including hundreds involving a pipeline or fossil fuel energy, according to published records.
Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada.

LAW AND ORDER

Globe and Mail – The Supreme Court is Harper’s real Opposition
Worried on this Canada Day that an overbearing government is trying to change the country too much? Bothered that civil liberties are being sacrificed, that the government is trying to impose a moral code, that big monied interests are being catered to at the expense of the disadvantaged?
If so, you might find comfort in the work of our Supreme Court. Its rulings give it the look of standard-bearer for the proverbial little guy, the underdog’s ally. Its progressive orientation runs up against the Conservatives’ intent. Not by design, but in effect, it has become the Official Opposition in Ottawa, outdoing the New Democrats and Liberals.

CBC News – Federal government to appeal ruling reversing ‘cruel’ cuts to refugee health
The federal government will appeal a court decision overturning its cuts to refugee health-care funding, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said today.
Earlier Friday, the Federal Court released a decision giving the government four months to change federal cuts to refugee health care. The court threatened to strike down the changes.
Alexander told reporters at a news conference the government “vigorously defends the interests of Canadian taxpayers” and said he wants to emphasize “genuine refugees.” The appeal goes to the Federal Court of Appeal, but could end up in the Supreme Court if one side challenges the Federal Court of Appeal’s eventual decision.

CBC News – Refugee board approves claimants labelled ‘bogus’ by Ottawa
The federal government says refugees from a list of “safe” countries are “bogus” and don’t deserve health care, yet hundreds of these claimants have been approved as legitimate refugees, including dozens from the United States.
Figures provided by the Immigration and Refugee Board to CBC News show 47 claimants from the U.S. have been approved since 2007, even though the U.S. is on a list of “Designated Countries of Origin” that are deemed by Canada to respect human rights and offer state protection — and therefore don’t produce what Canada would recognize as refugees.
A small number of claimants from other “safe” countries, such as Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden have also been approved — joining hundreds more from Mexico, Hungary and countries that have recently been added the DCO list.

ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT

Broadbent Institute – Fact check: putting the Conservatives’ “million net new jobs” into context
The Conservative Party recently launched the “We’re better off with Harper” campaign with the claim that “with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada’s economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada’s Conservatives.”
The number in that claim is carefully chosen, and taken in isolation is factually correct. In the five years of recovery from June 2009 to June 2014, total employment indeed rose by 1,091,400 jobs.
But if we do the count from June 2008, before the onset of the recession and the big job losses it caused, the increase in employment to date has been a more modest 753,000 jobs. And the national unemployment rate in June 2014 was, at 7.1%, still significantly higher than the average of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.1% in 2008.

Broadbent Institute – Canada’s economic performance is nothing to celebrate
For all of the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the Harper government, the fact remains that Canada’s economic recovery has been built on very fragile foundations. Growth has been fueled by the growth of household and foreign debt rather than by business investment, and we have become dangerously reliant on the resource sector.

Ottawa Citzen – Audit challenges government on Old Age Security savings
The Conservative government will face difficulty proving that its plan to automatically enrol eligible Canadians in the Old Age Security plan will save taxpayers money.
An audit on the first phases of the program has found that the department responsible, Employment and Social Development Canada, couldn’t show “expected benefits” from the program because it has no measurable targets.

Huffington Post – CSEC Staff Levels Hit Record High, As Other Agencies Suffer Through Austerity
The Harper government is working to slash the size of the public service, but at least one agency is exempt from the austerity push.
Staff levels at Canada’s electronic spy agency hit a record high last month, according to national security blog Lux Ex Umbra.

Huffington Post – Tax Audits On Canadian Charities Widen, Criticized As ‘Bullying Tactic’
The Conservative government has stepped up its scrutiny of the political activities of charities, adding fresh money for more audits, and casting its net well beyond the environmental groups that have opposed its energy policies.
Canada Revenue Agency, ordered in 2012 to audit political activities as a special project, now has also targeted charities focused on foreign aid, human rights, and even poverty.
The tax agency has also been given a bigger budget — $5 million more through to 2017 — and is making the special project a permanent part of its work.

The Star – Parks Canada services take hit in budget cuts
“These are cuts to direct services, exactly what the Conservatives promised wouldn’t happen,” said Megan Leslie, Halifax MP and New Democratic environment critic.
“(This) is about us trying to access our cultural heritage (and) our natural heritage. This is actually going to prevent people from being able to access our parks.”

JUST DELICIOUS

Ottawa Citizen – Del Mastro grilled over bank deposit during election campaign
In a tense day of cross-examination Friday, MP Dean Del Mastro admitted he couldn’t explain who transferred $11,500 to his bank account a few hours before a $21,000 cheque was cashed by a federal campaign supplier.
Del Mastro is charged with violating the federal Elections Act by exceeding the spending and donation limits in his 2008 campaign and covering it up by filing an incorrect return.

 

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Harper Watch, June 17 to June 30, 2014


COMMENTARY

ipolitics – Michael Harris:  Who cares about the truth when you’ve got a hefty ad budget?
Stephen Harper has made an amendment to the old saying that bullshit baffles brains: marketing trumps all.
Care to play Snakes and Leaders Stevie-style? Easy-peazy. You screw the veterans and then divert attention by surrounding sporting events with commercials saying what a swell job you’re doing for them. The veterans will know you are a fat-faced liar, but that doesn’t matter. They are old and expendable — a disappearing demographic of no political importance. There’s no political upside to them.
You are interested in aiming your message at those millions of non-veterans watching the game, the ones who will be more impressed by all the monuments you are building to past wars, while simultaneously ignoring sick and dying veterans of more recent ones.
After a few beers, a few highlights-reel goals and a few government-sponsored TV spots, hey, they might come away with a more or less sloppy idea that you are in fact the lone champion of the veterans. The beauty of advertising: You can be rewarded for failure and phoniness every time if you get the messaging right.

ipolitics – Linda McQuaig:  Why Harper doesn’t give a damn about Mohamed Fahmy
In April, a brutal Egyptian judge known locally as “the Butcher”handed down a mass death sentence to 683 men. To most civilized observers, this kind of action is associated with the world’s most tyrannical regimes.
But to the Harper government, this is the behaviour of a country “progressing towards democracy”.

PIPELINES, ENVIRONMENT, FIRST NATIONS

Huffington Post – Harper Accused Of ‘Hiding’ After Northern Gateway Pipeline Decision
In the end, one of the biggest decisions of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s career was marked with little more than a press release.
And, this time, the words “Harper government” were nowhere to be found.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Conservative government announced its conditional approval for Enbridge Inc.’s controversial $7-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project between the Alberta oilsands and the B.C. coast.

THE COURTS

National Post – Justice Minister Peter MacKay defends suggestion women are too busy with their kids to be judges
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay is defending comments he made last week about why so few women are appointed as judges in Canada.
MacKay was responding to a Toronto Star report Wednesday about an Ontario Bar Association meeting at which he was asked about the lack of women and visible minorities on federally appointed court benches.
MacKay answered the question by saying that women don’t apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children — and that children need their mothers more than their fathers, the Star report said.

The Star – Lawyer disputes Peter MacKay’s claim that women, visible minorities don’t apply to be judges
When Avvy Yao-Yao Go read Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s claim that women and visible minorities are underrepresented on Canada’s courts because they don’t apply for the job, she was furious.
Go, a director at the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and a practicing lawyer for the past 23 years, says it’s not true. She knows “worthy” candidates who have applied, and so has she.
Go submitted her name for a federal judicial appointment two years ago and again this year. She was worried by cuts to legal aid that might threaten her own job, and on another level, she says she believed it is up to visible minority lawyers to throw their hats in the ring.
But Go, who was recently named to the Order of Ontario, heard nothing back except that her application would be held “in the system” for two years. She suspects her past criticism at parliamentary committees of the Conservative government’s policies on immigration, refugees and poverty reduction mean she has no chance of an appointment.

aptn – Saganash wants probe into money spent by Ottawa fighting aboriginal rights
Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash has asked Canada’s auditor general to probe the millions of dollars Ottawa spends fighting Aboriginal rights and title cases.
Saganash sent a letter to Auditor General Michael Ferguson requesting an operational audit of the expenditures to determine whether Ottawa is using taxpayer money wisely and efficiently battling First Nations over rights.
The federal Aboriginal Affairs department spent over $100 million between 2012 and 2013 on legal fees, according to federal government records. The department’s own internal risk assessment found that a lot of the litigation money has been spent on losing causes.

SKEWED PRIORITIES – VETERANS LOSE AGAIN

CBC News – Canadian Forces’ return to old-style ranks, insignia costs millions
At a time of federal belt-tightening, the Conservative government’s return to World War II-era ranks and insignia will require new dress uniforms for Canadian soldiers and naval officers at a cost of $4.5 million.
Defence Department figures show the bulk of that cost — $3.1 million — will go to buy new jackets for the dark green dress uniforms army officers wear to formal events and on parades.
A similar change for naval officers — the addition of a curl to the top bar of their traditional naval rank — has a cost of $1.35 million, the Defence Department says.
That puts the cost of new jackets for the highest-ranking soldiers and sailors at almost $4.5 million.
Those costs are only necessary because of Conservative government changes to rank titles for the army and insignia for officers in the army and navy announced last year.

ipolitics – The number of homeless veterans in Canada is soaring
The number of homeless people identified by Veterans Affairs Canada has skyrocketed over the last five years, jumping from just 35 in 2009-2010 to 236 last year.
But the true figure could be much higher. Experts suggest there could be thousands of veterans living on the streets yet to be located by government and volunteer organizations. A City of Toronto report released last year revealed that 16 per cent of the 447 people sleeping on Toronto’s streets identified themselves as veterans.

SECRECY

The Star – Government of [CENSORED] censors cyberbullying docs
In her annual report to Parliament earlier this month, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault said her office has seen a sharp increase in complaints over the government’s handling of access requests.
Legault’s report found that complaints about the government’s handling of the requests increased 30 per cent in 2012-13, leading the outgoing commissioner to warn that the system remains “fragile.”
“It is of concern to me when government institutions struggle to provide timely access, take an overly broad approach to exempting information or fail in their duty to assist requesters, as is required,” the report said.

The Star – Health Canada keeps flu plant inspection report secret
Health Canada is keeping the most recent completed inspection of Canada’s largest flu vaccine supplier secret despite a startling report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raising questions about quality control.
The Canadian federal regulator refused to provide a copy of its July 2012 inspection of GlaxoSmithKline’s Quebec plant, where about 5 million doses of flu vaccine were manufactured and supplied to the Canadian public in 2013 alone. The move comes in the wake of a warning letter from the U.S. FDA that documented concerns with the plant’s manufacturing process dating back to 2011.
“Health Canada seems to be prioritizing what the companies claim is confidential business information over patient safety and that really isn’t acceptable,” said Dr. Joel Lexchin, a health policy professor at York University and drug safety expert.

CBC News – New Parks Canada media policy spurs controversy
A new Parks Canada policy regulating what information can be released to the media is facing backlash.
The policy forbids employees from speaking to the media without approval and requires all requests for information to go through a national office. While many aren’t happy with the move, they say they aren’t surprised the Harper government is tightening its control of Parks Canada communications.
“This is just how this government operates, increasingly,” said Chris Turner, author of The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Willful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. “They do not trust their own sort of rank and file to do their duties and to speak frankly but honestly about what they know.”

CITIZENSHIP

The Star – Immigration experts say Bill C-24 discriminatory and weakens citizenship
Since the act’s introduction there has been a rising tide of criticism, much of it focused on perceived violation of human and Charter rights, a shift to treating citizenship as a privilege and expanded revocation powers.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association gathered more than 42,000 signatures in an on-line petition opposing the act. Amnesty International spoke out against it. And many critics appeared before the parliamentary committee to argue that it’s exclusionary and discriminatory.

The Star – Case of Mohamed Fahmy shows failing of new citizenship rules
The Canadian government has been severely criticized for its failure to do enough to assist Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Egypt for terrorism after a trial that has been uniformly condemned as a travesty of justice.
But with the recent passage of the controversial Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the government can now answer their critics this way: “Hey, stop complaining. Last week, we passed a law that gives the minister of citizenship and immigration the power to strip Fahmy of his Canadian citizenship now that Egypt has deemed him a terrorist. So just be grateful we are publicly announcing that we do not intend to do that. But, by the way, we can change our mind anytime.”

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Harper Watch, June 5 to June 16, 2014


COMMENTARY

National Post – John Ivison: Peter MacKay’s prostitution law a failure on all counts
Peter MacKay’s role as Attorney General of Canada requires him to be the guardian of the rule of law. He is mandated to protect the personal liberties of Canadians and advise Cabinet to ensure its actions are legal and constitutional.
By introducing a new law on prostitution that is all but certain to be struck down by the courts, he has failed on all counts.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: We once had to wait weeks for a new Harper abuse of power. Now we’re getting them two or three a day
Several themes run throughout these: a contempt for civil liberties, for due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage. Worse, there is virtually nothing anyone can do about it. All governments have displayed some of these traits. If this government has pushed things rather further, it is because it can: because we have so centralized power in the Prime Minister’s Office, with so few constraints or countervailing powers.

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Harper’s foe isn’t the Supreme Court — it’s the Constitution
What a remarkable joke Stephen Harper continues to play on Canada: The law-and-order party is once again making it clear that it’s about as law-abiding as Bonnie and Clyde making a bank withdrawal.
Our desperado PM has done it again. The issue this time is the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice to fill a vacancy from Quebec. Judge Robert Mainville is apparently Harper’s pick this time, after a previous appointment from Quebec — Marc Nadon — was struck down as unconstitutional.

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Harper sinks to new lows with cold war posturing
Let there be no mistake about it. Our Steve is thinking marketing. He’s thinking about the 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage. His Ukrainian Gambit is about winning votes by posing as a staunch defender of Ukraine, election by the million-dollar photo-op, election by working the hot buttons — anything other than his record as PM which has made the PMO one of the least trusted offices in the land.

ELECTION FRAUD

Ottawa Citizen – Key Conservative witness in robocalls trial said scheme was national in scope
GUELPH — The Crown’s star witness in the robocalls case wrote last year that the Conservative party was complicit in a national scheme in the 2011 election that it has blamed on local staffers.
Former Guelph Conservative campaign worker Andrew Prescott wrote the statement in July 2013 while he was upset over problems he was having getting accreditation from the party to attend the national convention in Calgary in November of that year.
Prescott never released the statement but did send it as a Facebook message to Michael Sona, who is on trial in Guelph for an Election Act violation in relation to a robocall that sent voters to the wrong polling station on May 2, 2011.

ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL

Globe and Mail – Canada’s lagging on climate change is putting the economy at risk
It’s no secret that the government of Stephen Harper has doubled down on oil production and exports as the winning combination for keeping the economy in the black for years to come. But something unexpected is happening on the Prime Minister’s way to the bank: Our once-willing trading partners are making noises about turning their backs on us, and the product we have to offer.
Take for instance recent reports out of the U.S., which suggest that Canada’s unwillingness to get serious about climate change present one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the Obama administration’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. This is more than mere supposition with the U.S. moving aggressively on climate change in Barack Obama’s second term. Strict regulations out of the U.S. EPA this week aimed at cutting carbon pollution from power plants serve only as the most recent case in point.

Globe and Mail – Federal plan for B.C. oil spill relies on using banned chemicals
The federal government’s backup plan in the event of a catastrophic oil spill in British Columbia’s waters relies on using chemical dispersants that are currently banned from marine use by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak says her province is not prepared to sign off on the federal oil-tanker safety plan rolled out last month as part of an effort to address concerns about marine environmental safety in advance of Ottawa’s Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline decision.

VETERANS

Huffington Post – Veterans Affairs Denies, Delays Until Benefits Claimants Die: Ex-Soldiers
OTTAWA – A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.
Retired major Mark Campbell, a decorated soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan, told a small, vocal rally on Parliament Hill that he has a hard time sleeping — but not because of his injuries or the associated mental trauma.
“This is not what has me punching and trying to kick in bed at night,” said Campbell, motioning to his missing limbs. “My trauma continues every single day (because of) my sense of betrayal at the hands of the Canadian government.”

Globe and Mail – Will the F-35 be another ‘Widow Maker’ for Canadian pilots?
Thirty-nine Canadian pilots lost their lives flying the CF-104 Starfighter, in planes that never saw combat. A staggering 110 of the 239 Starfighters purchased by Canada in the 1960s crashed before they were replaced by CF-18s.
These numbers remain relevant today given the similarities between the Starfighter and the F-35 that the Harper government is now poised to buy.
The Starfighter was built by Lockheed Corporation. The F-35 is built by the same company, which since 1995 has been named Lockheed Martin.

NO DEBATE ABOUT IT

Vancouver Observer – Conservatives defend suppression of debate
“I do not know why the current government does not buy an entire warehouse of duct tape and just tape every single mouth in this House,” added NDP MP Matthieu Ravignat, adding that it was “unbelievable” Canada was still debating what citizenship meant, at this stage in its history.

Huffington Post – Chris Alexander Calls Rocco Galati ‘Disgraced’ Ex-Khadr Family Lawyer
OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Chris Alexander went on the offensive Tuesday against Rocco Galati, the Toronto constitutional lawyer who plans to challenge the federal government’s controversial citizenship bill.
Under fire during question period in the House of Commons, Alexander denounced Galati — the same lawyer who successfully challenged the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada — as the “disgraced ideological former lawyer of the Khadr family.”
A group of lawyers led by Galati is taking on Bill C-24 as unconstitutional, in particular those provisions that would let the government revoke citizenship from dual nationals — even if they are born in Canada.

CBC News – Ottawa insists on ‘absolute secrecy’ on Yukon environment law
A federal government bill that proposes changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act was tabled in the Senate last week, but few northerners who were consulted about the bill are in a position to talk about it.
Ottawa has insisted on secrecy throughout its northern consultation process.
“We were given an absolute secrecy,” says Ken McKinnon, acting chair of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. “We had to sign off for each numbered amendment to the act personally and then return them and be crossed off the list.

ipolitics – Opposition demands answers on grain crisis warnings
New revelations by iPolitics that two federal ministers were warned about a looming grain backlog months before the situation turned into a crisis triggered sharp criticism from Opposition MPs, Monday.
“Mr. Speaker, new documents revealed under Access to Information show the Conservatives ignored the grain transport warnings. They knew before yet did not act,” NDP Agriculture Critic Malcolm Allen asked in Question Period Monday.

HARPER IS WATCHING YOU

The Star – Police need warrant to get Internet customers’ identities, Supreme Court rules
OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada broke new legal ground for privacy rights in a ruling that says the constitution protects the anonymity Canadian Internet users expect when they go online.
The high court in a bombshell 8-0 decision ruled Friday police must obtain search warrants to obtain basic subscriber information such as a customer’s name, address and phone number from telecom companies when an officer suspects illegal activity.
The decision immediately put in doubt the fate of two Conservative government bills that expand warrantless access to such data.

Ottawa Citizen – Government orders federal departments to keep tabs on all demonstrations across country
“The Government Operations Centre is seeking your assistance in compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations which will occur either in your geographical area or that may touch on your mandate,” noted the email, leaked to the Citizen. “We will compile this information and make this information available to our partners unless of course, this information is not to be shared and not available on open sources. In the case of the latter, this information will only be used by the GOC for our Situational Awareness.”

 

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Harper Watch, May 22 to June 4, 2014


THE TRIAL OF MICHAEL SONA

National Post – Defence grills witness about why Tories gave him $15,000 raise after pinning robocalls on Michael Sona
GUELPH – Michael Sona’s defence lawyer chipped away at the credibility of the Crown’s first witness in the robocalls case on Monday, pressing him on the vagueness of his memory and asking pointed questions about the promotion and raise he received after giving evidence against his former friend.
Chris Crawford, a Conservative ministerial staffer who worked alongside Sona on the Conservative campaign in Guelph, told the court that he had overheard his former friend speak of misdirecting voters to the wrong polling locations and sending out calls to annoy Liberal voters.
Crawford is the first of 10 Crown witnesses, all current or former Conservative political staffers.

CBC News – Star robocalls witness points to Michael Sona, Ken Morgan
Andrew Prescott, the star witness at the trial of Michael Sona, suggested Conservative campaign manager Ken Morgan was involved in setting up the misleading robocalls that confused Guelph, Ont., voters in the last federal election.
Prescott, the deputy campaign manager for the Conservative candidate in Guelph in 2011, said the campaign office was getting reports from supporters on May 2 that year that they had received phone calls telling them their polling station had moved, as well as a call that said the polls would close early.

OPINION, COMMENTARY

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Hey Stevie, start with ‘I’m sorry’ and go from there
Stephen Harper owes Canadians an explanation and now would be a good time to offer it.
How did a lawyer twice convicted of fraud, who went to jail for 18 months for stealing from his own clients, who was charged with influence peddling in 2012, and is now facing three new counts of illegal lobbying and another of influence peddling – how did such a talented guy get to sit at the right hand of power in the Prime Minister’s Office?

Maclean’s – The maternal health summit: Another bad day for the PMO
… we got suckered into believing we would be able to cover an event whose participants very much want their efforts to be covered, and instead we were wrong again, as we so often are when we expect Stephen Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office to act like professionals.

The Star – Stephen Harper presiding over Tories’ self-destructive madness: Hébert
When historians look back on Stephen Harper’s (first?) decade in power, what will they make of the trail of institutional wreckage that his government is leaving in its wake?
Will they conclude that a mastermind determined to change the course of the ship of state at all costs was in charge, or just a bunch of drunken sailors?
The Conservatives came to power in 2006 as institutional reformers. But three mandates later, one would look in vain for a method to the self-destructive madness that they are presiding over.

Press Progress – Stephen Harper will blow $43 billion this year on tax giveaways
The Conservative anti-tax brigade is spending $43 billion on tax giveaways this year, a new report estimates.
A Parliamentary Budget Office report released Tuesday examined changes to Canada’s tax system between 2005 and 2013 for personal incomes taxes and the GST/HST. It found that the accumulation of cuts since 2005 will reduce federal personal income tax revenues this year by an estimated $17.1 billion and the federal share of the GST/HST revenue by $13.3 billion.

rabble.ca – CLLN: Harper government attempts to quietly defund national literacy
Without an announcement or any consultation, it appears that the federal government has decided to quietly collapse Canada’s national literacy and essential skills network. This is happening at the same time as community literacy programs across Canada experience a seismic shift and uncertainty of sustained operations, while millions of dollars in federal funding is being effectively diverted from federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements and redirected to the unproven Canada Job Grant program.

IN THE COURTS

Canada.com – Federal government legal spending hit record $500 million last year
(And they lose almost every case)
Federal government departments and agencies spent a record half billion dollars on legal services last year, an increase of more than $138 million in the past three years alone, according to government spending records.
Total spending — not including legal services provided by a department or agency’s own lawyers — hit $500.8 million in 2011-12, according to the 2012 Public Accounts. That’s 6.8 per cent more than the previous year and 38 per cent higher than in 2008-09.

Globe and Mail – The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO
Early last summer, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin sat down with five federal politicians at the stately court building on Wellington Street, just down the road from Parliament.
The Supreme Court selection panel – three Conservative MPs, a New Democrat MP and a Liberal MP – had come bearing a list of six candidates to replace Justice Morris Fish of Quebec, who was nearing 75 and about to retire.
That list, crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department, was so troubling to Chief Justice McLachlin that she phoned Justice Minister Peter MacKay and took initial steps toward contacting the Prime Minister. These attempts to raise potential eligibility issues would later trigger an unprecedented public dispute between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, a coda to the ultimately failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon.

SAFETY, SECURITY

Ottawa Citizen – Government orders federal departments to keep tabs on all demonstrations across country
The federal government is expanding its surveillance of public activities to include all known demonstrations across the country, a move that collects information even on the most mundane of protests by Canadians.
Wesley Wark, an intelligence specialist at the University of Ottawa, said such an order is illegal. “The very nature of the blanket request and its unlimited scope I think puts it way over the line in terms of lawful activity,” said Wark. “I think it’s a clear breach of our Charter rights.”

CBC News – Cyberbullying bill surveillance powers alarm Ontario privacy watchdog
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s privacy watchdog, is sounding the alarm about “overreaching surveillance powers” contained in Bill C-13, the federal government’s legislation to combat cybercrime.
In a sharply worded letter sent to Conservative MP Mike Wallace, the chair of the Commons justice committee currently studying Bill C-13, Cavoukian warns the government against beefing up police powers under the guise of protecting children from cyberbullying and other online crimes.
“The time for dressing up overreaching surveillance powers in the sheep-like clothing of sanctimony about the serious harms caused by child pornography and cyberbullying is long past,” Cavoukian said in a letter dated May 16.

Globe and Mail – Privacy watchdogs troubled by controversial bill extending police powers
The new bills come amid a renewed debate over privacy in Canada, ranging from questions about oversight at the national spy agency, Ottawa’s own efforts to monitor Canadians’ social-media accounts and recent revelations that telecommunication companies are regularly being asked by government agencies to hand over private data.
Nonetheless, the new bills further expand snooping powers. In particular, C-13 was tabled as a cyberbullying law but also includes clauses beefing up the power of various government officials to monitor cellphones and other electronic data and track people, though in most cases a warrant is required. However, the bill also allows law-enforcement officials to seek private information from, for instance, telephone companies – who critics say could, under the bill, voluntarily hand over certain subscriber information to police, border guards or other officials with full legal impunity.

The Star – Ministry confirms it doesn’t audit overseas garment factories
In the year since the Rana Plaza disaster, the clothing sector has come under scrutiny for its lack of oversight and transparency. Some Canadian companies and levels of government have taken steps to improve their accountability.
Loblaw, the maker of Joe Fresh clothing, has joined the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement that will see more than 100 retailers pay for factory safety upgrades.
But the federal government remains an exception, activists said.
“Having no audits is a formula for disaster,” said Scott Nova, an official with the Workers Rights Consortium, a group that monitors garment factories. “You have a law with no enforcement that companies have every incentive to ignore because by ignoring standards they make more money.”

FIRST NATIONS

WC Native News – First Nations chiefs have voted and rejected Bill C-33
First Nations chiefs have voted to reject Bill C-33, which proposes to create the First Nations control of First Nations education act, and demand the government withdraw it immediately.
Their resolution calls on Canada, “based on the honour of the Crown to negotiate an agreement on new fiscal transfer payments to First Nations.”
The chiefs demand that Canada immediately provide the $1.9 billion that was offered in conjunction with Bill C-33, with the core funding growing at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent.

Global News – Harper’s actions unconscionable and immoral: Former PM
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin says the government’s decision to put the First Nations education bill on hold is “morally wrong” and “unconscionable.”
In an interview airing Sunday on The West Block with Tom Clark, Martin said the decision to shelve Bill C-33 and the money that goes with it, shows the government is playing a “very tough game…really an unfair game with the First Nations.”

ENVIRONMENT, OIL

ipolitics – Ottawa demands NAFTA body drop investigation into oilsands tailings
CALGARY – Ottawa wants the Commission for Environmental Co-operation to drop its investigation into whether laws are being properly enforced when it comes to oilsands pollution.
The CEC asked the federal government in December to respond to allegations that it has failed to enforce provisions in the Fisheries Act by allowing harmful substances to leak from tailings ponds into water sources downstream of mines in northeastern Alberta.

rabble.ca – New revelations show Harper’s warm embrace of Big Oil lobby
Now, Wright figures prominently in another PMO saga that highlights something arguably much more serious — the political influence of a multi-billion-dollar lobby whose business development plans imperil nothing less than the fate of the earth.
Yet this latest Nigel Wright saga has been largely ignored by the media — perhaps because it’s not considered news that a lobbyist for Big Oil had stunningly easy access to the PM’s top adviser.
After all, did anybody think that such a lobbyist would not have that sort of access in Stephen Harper’s PMO?
Under Harper, the Prime Minister’s Office has dedicated itself to transforming Canada into an unabashed petro-state, making the country one of a handful of nations leading the world rapidly down a path to climate-change mayhem.

ECONOMY, EMPLOYMENT

CBC News – 39% of unemployed have given up job search, poll suggests
The results of this survey should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers that some unemployed Canadians are falling behind,” Express CEO Bob Funk said. “If left unchecked, they could fall into a trap of prolonged unemployment and risk being left out of the workforce entirely.”
With numbers like that, it’s not hard to detect the bleakness emanating from employment centres across the country.
“I’m not even going to look for a job anymore, because I’ve been searching for six months and nothing is happening,” says Shirlon Marshall, an unemployed short order cook looking for a job at a Toronto-area job centre.

Globe and Mail – Ottawa approved thousands of foreign worker requests at minimum wage, data reveal
The federal government approved thousands of requests to bring in temporary foreign workers at minimum wage in recent years, a practice that undermines claims from government and employers that there are serious labour shortages and that all efforts have been taken to hire Canadians.
The revelations in newly released data come as the Conservative government is weighing major policy reforms – including a new “wage floor” – in response to criticism that employers are relying on the temporary foreign worker program as a way to avoid raising wages.

STILL CHEATING

The Hill Times – Cabinet ministers on P&P get $1.3-million more to spend on ministerial staff annually: report
“Unlike permanent public servants, political staffers are ‘exempt’ from expectations of non-partisanship in their work. In fact, they are selected and appointed, at least in part, based on partisan affiliation and serve at the pleasure of the minister or Prime Minister,” writes Ms. Robson in her paper.

INTERNATIONAL SHAME

Huffington Post – Harper Government Ignores Advice About Ukraine Election Observer Mission
OTTAWA – For the third time in four years, the Harper government has sent a large, Canada-only mission to observe an election in Ukraine, despite a report that concluded it would be cheaper, more credible and more effective to join a multilateral international mission.
Some 338 observers are part of Canada’s current independent mission in Ukraine; they are fanned out across the troubled country to assess the integrity of Sunday’s presidential election process.

CBC News – Maternal health summit excludes opposition parties, NDP says
“I asked specifically to be invited. I’m the Official Opposition critic on international development,” said Hélène Laverdière on CBC Radio’s The House.
“I mean, this is a governmental event. I would presume many members of the Conservative caucus will find themselves there. So, are they turning it into a kind of partisan event where only Conservative MPs are entitled to attend?”
Laverdière said she finds it “worrying, to say the least.”

FANTINO – CANADA’S SHAME

National Post – ‘We’re nothing to you’: Julian Fantino heads for back door, ignores veteran’s spouse demanding answers over PTSD treatment
OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year — including television spots throughout the NHL playoffs — but ignoring the plight of families who care for injured soldiers, says the spouse of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
An angry Jenifer Migneault chased after Julian Fantino and demanded to speak to the veterans affairs minister following his appearance Thursday at a House of Commons committee.
The spectacle played out before a crush of reporters, television cameras and microphones in a scene reminiscent of Fantino’s testy encounter last winter with veterans angry about the closure of federal offices.

ipolitics – ‘Mr. Fantino … can I talk to you, please?’
Why does Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino hate veterans?
Maybe “hate” is too strong a word. Let’s just say that he has a peculiar way of showing his affection and admiration for veterans. In fact, Fantino has been disdainful and curt with the very Canadians whose interests he is supposed to serve and protect.

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Harper Watch, May 11 to May 21, 2014


*** Check out the latest additions to Harper Chips at Hchips.ca! Sign up to become a Printer Person and get monthly installments of printable, business card sized Harper Chips to hand out to friends, family – even conservatives you may still be associating with! Raise awareness about how Harper is destroying Canada – you might even change a few Conservative minds in time for the next election. ***

COMMENTARY

iPolitics – (Michael Harris) Canadians realize if veterans can get crushed, no one is safe
The final victims of Stephen Harper will turn out to be the members of his own government. The Conservatives are now the 3-D party: delusional, disconnected and doomed. If you want the quintessential Stephen Harper, look no further than last week’s National Day of Honour. Everyone knew it was the Governor General’s job to accept the last Canadian flag that flew in Afghanistan, but hey, why give up the money shot to a mere functionary? So the PM snagged the flag — and then handed it off to the hapless David Johnston, former Commander-in-Chief of Canada.   Cute, Steve — but everybody gets it. The whole thing was for you, not the veterans.

Canada.com (Stephen Maher) – Election call centre script raises questions about honesty of Conservatives
(Great to see that Stephen Maher who broke the robocalls story back in 2012 is not letting up on his investigative reporting even if the  Yves Coté, the Commissioner of Elections halted the investigation last month due to “lack of evidence”.)
The lawyer for the Conservative party twice gave Elections Canada incorrect information about telephone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling station in the last days of the 2011 federal election. In an email May 1, party lawyer Arthur Hamilton told Elections Canada that Conservative call centre workers were not advising voters that Elections Canada had changed the location of polling stations, and that the party had not advised voters to go to a polling station an hour and a half from their home. But a report released by Elections Canada last month includes a script that shows the party’s callers were telling voters that Elections Canada had changed the location of polling stations, and investigators found one voter who was directed to a polling station 740 kilometres away.

Toronto Star (Editorial) Peter MacKay should heed evidence, not eliminate it
A Canadian Press report last week revealed that in April, $1.2 million was removed from the department’s research budget – 20 per cent of the total. As a result, eight researchers have lost their jobs. The dual purpose of the cut, in the convoluted, vaguely ominous words of Justice Minister Peter MacKay: “To ensure that we bring value to hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars” and that “research is … undertaken to obtain information to support priorities of government.” But if the government wants to reduce the justice budget it ought to heed the evidence, not eliminate it. Since the Conservatives took power in 2006, justice spending has risen by more than 30 per cent, even as the crime rate has continued its steady, two-decade-long, largely demographics-driven decline.

The Star – Stephen Harper must withdraw accusations against chief justice: Editorial
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems to be edging back from his reckless and indefensible attack on the chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin. As the Star’s Tonda McCharles reported this past week, he now says he simply didn’t need to speak to McLachlin about a court appointment, rather than rejecting such a conversation as “inappropriate” and “inadvisable.”
What Harper has not yet done – and what he must do without delay – is definitively clear the air of any suggestion that McLachlin acted wrongly by offering her input to the government on issues that might arise in a potential appointment.
As things stand now, the prime minister has called into question the integrity of the chief justice – and then left the allegations hanging in the air for more than two weeks. He has neither defended his suggestions that McLachlin attempted to involve him in improper discussions about court appointments, nor has he clearly withdrawn them.

CCPA – Harper’s Attack on Democracy, Itemized by Lawrence Martin
Lawrence Martin, columnist with the Globe and Mail, has written the best review, so far, of Stephen Harper’s one-man show  The Attack On Democracy.
It’s a must-read on the record thus far, particularly by colleagues, friends and family members who might not much like Harper, but like the other options far less.
One can only imagine where he might it next with sufficient popular support.
Originally appearing on the pages of ipolitics,it appears below in full
Read it and vote. After all, we get the democracy we deserve.

 ENVIRONMENT

iPolitics – Ottawa demands NAFTA body drop investigation into oilsands tailings
(Note that the CEC is a tri-national organization created in connection with NAFTA to address regional environmental concerns.)
Ottawa wants the Commission for Environmental Co-operation to drop its investigation into whether laws are being properly enforced when it comes to oilsands pollution. The CEC asked the federal government in December to respond to allegations that it has failed to enforce provisions in the Fisheries Act by allowing harmful substances to leak from tailings ponds into water sources downstream of mines in northeastern Alberta. But the federal government said in January that process should proceed “no further” because a legal case dealing with the same issue was already underway in provincial court. In April, the CEC said it disagreed with Ottawa’s stance and would press on with its analysis.

The Tyee – IMF Pegs Canada’s Fossil Fuel Subsidies at $34 Billion
While Canada slashes budgets for research, education and public broadcasting, there is one part of our economy that enjoys remarkable support from the Canadian taxpayer: the energy sector. The International Monetary Fund estimates that energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs. These figures are found in the appendix of a major report released last year estimating global energy subsidies at almost $2 trillion. The report estimated that eliminating the subsidies would reduce global carbon emissions by 13 per cent. The stunning statistics specific to this country remain almost completely unreported in Canadian media. In comparison to other countries, Canada provides more subsidies to petroleum as a proportion of government revenue than any developed nation on Earth besides the United States and Luxembourg.

DIRTY POLITICS

Chronicle Herald – Canada tangles up fisheries talks to score foreign-policy point
But then things start to go wrong. Just as a draft of these guidelines was about to go back to the FAO fisheries committee this coming June, something unexpected and quite shocking happened: one country out of almost 90 member nation states — Canada — torpedoed the whole process at the very last minute. Even more unbelievably, Canada blocked the guidelines, not on the grounds of some fisheries policy position, but because of a completely unrelated political issue. Here’s what happened: A paragraph was inserted into the draft that indicated the protection of the rights of small-scale fisher people includes those in “occupied territories” around the world.

Toronto Star – How the myth of a Canadian skill shortage was shattered(Renounced economist, auditor general, TD Bank, Conference Board of Canada say that the Harper government’s claim of skill shortages that they use to justify the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in BUNK.)
It took nine months of detective work by economists, journalists, social media sleuths and investigators at the Parliamentary Budget Office to solve the mystery of Canada’s missing job vacancies. Last week Auditor General Mike Ferguson made it official: The federal government was using unreliable statistics to support its claim that Canada had plenty of jobs but no workers with the skills to fill them. The first clue that something was wrong came last August. Speaking at a policy conference in Kingston, economist Don Drummond said he had combed Canada’s labour market statistics looking for indications of a serious shortage of skilled workers – which Prime Minister Stephen Harper had called “the biggest challenge our country faces” – and failed to find any credible evidence if a misalignment between the skills of Canadians and the needs of employers.

Toronto Star – Legal community demands Stephen Harper withdraw criticism of Beverley McLachlin
An outraged Canadian legal community is marshalling criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, writing an open letter to him and seeking outside international help to reaffirm the independence of Canada’s top jurist. More than 650 lawyers and law teachers from across Canada released an open letter Tuesday calling on Harper to withdraw his criticism of Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. In apparent expectation that the government will not back down, a second letter from seven top Canadian legal academics asks the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva to investigate what they call the Conservative government’s “unfounded criticisms levelled at the Chief Justice.”

Toronto Star – Stephen Harper changes version of events around phone call by Beverley McLachlin
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has revised his version of events around what he and his office first characterized as an “inappropriate” and “inadvisable” phone call by the country’s top judge over a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Now Harper suggests he foresaw a court challenge and legal issue he previously said “surprised” him and his advisers because it had “never arisen” before. Earlier, Harper had characterized a call by Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin as inappropriate, just as any minister’s call to a judge would be on a case that was before the courts. “The fact of the matter is this,” Harper told the Commons Wednesday. “A matter came before me that I thought was likely to come before the court — the Supreme Court of Canada — based on information that I had. For that reason we completed our consultations with outside legal experts and later referred the matter to the Supreme Court.”

VETERANS KICKED AGAIN BY HARPER

National Post – Canadian Forces major sues government over money lost on home when forced to sell
A 24-year veteran of the Canadian military is taking the federal government to court Tuesday to recover thousands of dollars he lost on his home when he was posted to another base and got little compensation through a program that he says has caused financial hardship for dozens of members. “Clearly, there are a number of converging bureaucratic issues that are creating unfair hardship for some CF members simply because they are doing their duty,” Daigle wrote. Records released last year show that between 2007 and 2010, 146 applications involving tens of thousands of dollars each were rejected by the Treasury Board, despite having the support of National Defence.

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