Harper Watch – October 11 to 21, 2014


iPolitics (Michael Harris) – The devil, the details and Stephen Harper 

The starter’s pistol for Election 2015 has sounded. The three pillars of Stephen Harper’s past successes at the polls are now in place: fables, fear and the smear. Can they do the trick again?

The Conservative bias in the mainstream media (there hasn’t been a Liberal bias for years) has already led to rhapsodizing over Harper’s de facto balanced budget and looming tax cuts. Never mind the fact that this is a made-in-the-cutting room surplus. Never mind the fact that Harper wants your vote in return for shrinking your world. It is the PM’s choice of a ballot question in neon — buttressed by the usual bribes paid with other people’s money.

Canada.com (Stephen Maher) Stephen Harper and the merchant of venom

Michael Harris writes about the Harper-Finkelstein link in his new book, Party of One, which comes out this week.

Harris, whose investigative work over the decades has led to three commissions of inquiry, has written a careful, calm, 544-page examination of the dark side of the Harper government, which belongs on book shelves next to the friendlier assessment provided by Paul Wells in The Longer I’m Prime Minister.

The Star – Author Michael Harris’s new book is a takedown of Stephen Harper

By the time author Michael Harris nears the end of his magisterial review of the strife and times of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it is as if he felt the need of a shower.

Almost 500 pages of Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeoverhave by then been devoted to chronicling the Harper government’s bullying, abuse, duplicity, betrayal, affinity for crooks, public shaming of individuals, diminishment of democratic institutions.

Globe and Mail (Gerald Caplan) – Harper’s media foes aren’t liberal – they’re moderate conservatives

On Sept. 3, HuffPost reported that they had gotten hold of a Conservative Party fundraising email that slammed the Liberal Party for hiring as a senior adviser a writer for CTV News. Here’s what the leaked email said:

“When we told you the Ottawa media elites were working against us, reporters laughed at us. … Then the Liberals hired a CTV journalist to work as a high-level spin doctor. This confirms our suspicions – and our need for your support. Can I count on you to chip in $5 today?”

If reporters laughed before, now they broke up. Competitions broke out to see who could name more media elites who were attached to the Harper government, though many stopped after senators Duffy and Wallin and Harper cabinet minister Peter Kent.

National Post (Stephen Maher) – The ‘boys in short pants’ — Government run by PMO’s youthful zealots, ex-Tory MP says

The idea of ministerial responsibility, which is supposed to be at the heart of our system, is now as abstract as kabuki theatre, a fiction for empty, ritualized exchanges in the House of Commons.

“The socialization and indoctrination effects of the PMO subculture cannot be overstated,” Rathgeber writes. “I have witnessed young, seemingly normal and well-adjusted college graduates enter the PMO and, within six months, morph into arrogant, self-absorbed zealots, with an inflated sense of importance and ability.”

Those boys in short pants want the power to expropriate the work of journalists, and they are running the country, so they will have it.


The Tyee – Lawyer Offers to Help Media Fight Harper Gov’t Copyright Changes

A prominent law professor says he considers a Conservative plan to allow political parties to expropriate news footage for advertising to be such an abuse of power, he’s willing to offer his services to media pro bono to fight any attempts to pass such legislation.

Earlier this month, documents leaked to the media showed the Conservative party is considering adding legislation to an omnibus bill that would enable political parties — and only political parties — to use news footage in partisan ads without permission or financial compensation to the producers.


Globe and Mail – Conservatives’ EI policy will cost economy 9,000 jobs, watchdog says

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is challenging the Conservative government’s approach to Employment Insurance, issuing a new report that finds the economy will lose more than 9,000 jobs over two years because the government is collecting billions more in EI premiums than necessary.

The PBO also takes issue with a new Small Business Job Credit announced last month that will provide an average payment of $350 to qualifying small businesses in order to help offset the costs of premiums. The PBO said the $550-million credit will create only 800 jobs over two years, far less than the government has claimed.


CBC News – Military’s mental health system ‘abandoned’ CFB Shilo soldier

Mental health care at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba has been “a nightmare for me and other patients,” a soldier says. Among other things, the base has been without a psychiatrist for three months.

In those three months, the soldier — who CBC News is calling “Smith” to protect his identity — has attempted suicide.

“I didn’t really know what to do or where to go, other than that I felt just that maybe the world would be a better place without me. Maybe my family would be better off without me. Maybe the military would be better off without me,” he said.


Globe and Mail – Government launches $4-million ad campaign in advance of 150th birthday

NDP critic Mathieu Ravignat said the size of the Canada 150 ad budget – this far in advance of the 2017 anniversary – raises suspicions the campaign is more pre-election positioning by a Conservative government that he says has a history of using public ad funds for partisan purposes.

“Given the past borderline partisan nature of their ads, we have to be careful about the messaging in these ads, as well as the costs,” said Ravignat, noting there’s still three years of Canada 150 advertising to come.


CBC Radio – Reporter’s five-month (and counting) struggle to get data from Immigration Minister Chris Alexander

“Basically, there are three questions,” Dempsey tells As It Happens host Carol Off. “I think they’re pretty simple: How many Filipinos have applied to have their visa applications fast-tracked under the special measures? How many were rejected? And how many are still waiting?”

Dempsey believes these are the obvious follow-up questions to a government web page which shares the following data about Canada’s Typhoon Haiyan humanitarian efforts:

“As of April 1, 2014, the total number of approved applications (in persons) from Filipinos affected by the Typhoon was 1,097.” “That’s the message that’s gone out,” she says, “and I have no idea what that means.”

Law Times – The Hill: a peek at justice issues from the Opposition side of the House
Boivin says Parliament has had a difficult time trying to find out how much the federal government has spent on fighting legal cases. “All we get as answers are platitudes,” she says.

“If the government sat down and negotiated instead of going to court with $1,000-an-hour lawyers, we would be a lot better off.”

Public Works and Government Services Canada lets cases go to court rather than negotiating with the costs ending up on the Justice Department’s bill, she says.

It hasn’t escaped her that Harper has lost five major cases that ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.


CBC News – Revenue Canada targets birdwatchers for political activity

A small group of nature lovers in southern Ontario enjoy spending weekends watching birds and other wildlife, but lately they’re the ones under watch — by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.

Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group’s website.


Vancouver Observer – Hupacasath First Nation puts China on notice over FIPA
The Hupacasath First Nation put the Chinese government on notice today, stating it does not acknowledge the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) ratified by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month.

The small B.C. First Nation is requesting other First Nations across Canada to write the People’s Republic of China and express opposition to the investment agreement, which is expected to give Chinese state-owned corporations greater power over Canada’s natural resources.

The 31-year agreement, which went into effect October 1, was widely criticized as “unconstitutional”, and took two years to ratify due to strong public outcry. Although it was signed to help promote Canadian business in China, experts worried that Canada would be at a strong disadvantage due to being a much weaker partner in the agreement.

Murray Dobbin’s Blog – Why New Euro-Canada Treaty Is a Gift to Oil Firms 

CETA’s domestic regulation chapter would be more aptly called “Gifts for the Oil and Gas Industry”. These CETA provisions are so biased in favour of corporations it is easy to picture industry execs sitting at the elbows of CETA’s negotiators, guiding their pens as they draft the agreement. Short of an international treaty banning all government regulations outright, CETA gives the oil and gas industry virtually everything it has been asking for, for decades. Of course these anti-regulation gifts are also available to other sectors including the mining industry but given the special place in Harper’s universe reserved for Alberta’s oil patch it’s not hard to see where the impetus came from.

Most trade and investment agreements are full of obscure legalese, but the Domestic Regulation chapter of CETA – is actually relatively simple to understand. So check it out. The restrictions on regulation you will find are right out of the oil and gas industry’s wish list. Chapter 14 on Domestic Regulation provides so many grounds for regulations to be challenged that almost any regulation could conceivably be ruled in contravention of the agreement.


G&M – Foreign scientists write letter criticizing decline of Canadian federal research

An organization known for its efforts to improve scientific integrity within the U.S. government is taking aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper over policies and funding cuts that it says are detrimental to Canadian public science.

In an open letter released Tuesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists urged Mr. Harper to lift a communications protocol that prevents federal researchers from speaking with journalists without approval from Ottawa. The letter also refers to barriers that it says inhibit collaboration with colleagues in the broader scientific community.

CBC News – ISIS threat could mute objections to expanded anti-terror laws, critics fear

But could the government’s move to expand the existing anti-terror regime in an atmosphere of ISIS-inspired fears discourage MPs — particularly those in the opposition — from exercising full parliamentary due diligence?

“Even in the best of times, critiquing measures purportedly to protect us from terrorist threats is very difficult, both publicly and politically,” B.C. Civil Liberties Association senior counsel Carmen Cheung told CBC News.

“I think that right now, given the very serious concerns that we in Canada and people around the world have about ISIS, it’s going to be even harder.”



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Harper Watch – September 28 to October 10, 2014

iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Harper’s ‘noble’ war off to rocky start

(Excellent if depressing summary of the situation in the Middle East and the mess that Harper has gotten us into.)

So much for the Nobel Peace Prize — but at least Canada’s Bombardier-in-chief Stephen Harper thinks the latest Iraq war is “noble.” If there were a word combining “foolish” and “dishonest”, it would do a far better job than ‘noble’ of describing what this prime minister is leading Canada into.

In opposing this latte war, both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau were wise to leave Harper alone in his bellicose enthusiasms. In the debacle of  Afghanistan, Harper inherited Canadian involvement from the Liberals. This time, the blunder is entirely his own.

G&M (Jeffrey Simpson) Our money for attack ads – how low can the Harper Conservatives go?

Just when you thought the Harper Conservatives could stoop no lower with their attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, they discovered something even more base.

Household mailings, paid for by taxpayers, are supposed to communicate information from MPs to constituents about doings in government. …..

But now the Conservatives have decided to use these mailings – as much as 10 per cent of the voters receive them at any one time – as nothing more than a printed negative ad against Mr. Trudeau. It’s one thing for the Conservative Party to use its money to buy television airtime to demean Mr. Trudeau; it’s another to use your money for the same base purposes. But as we see, the Harper attack machine does politics this way, always has and always will, because the Prime Minister – who authorizes all this stuff, after all – obviously thinks it works

CTV News – Conservatives to change copyright law, allowing free use of news content in political ads

The Conservative government is planning to change Canada’s copyright law to allow political parties to use content published and broadcast by news organizations for free in their own political ads.

An internal Conservative cabinet document obtained by CTV News details an amendment to the Copyright Act which would allow “free use of ‘news’ content in political advertisement intended to promote or oppose a politician or political party.”   The amendment would also remove “the need for broadcasters to authorize the use of their news content.” And it would force media outlets to run political ads even if their own footage and content was used in a negative message to voters.

Related: Michael Geist – Why Does the Government Need a Copyright Exception for Political Ads?

Rabble.ca (Linda McQuaig) Corporations get lots, Canadians get little in CETA trade deal

According to Harper government hype, routinely repeated uncritically in the media, the trade deal will be a boon for all Canadians, boosting our economy by $12 billion, generating 80,000 jobs and adding $1,000 a year to the incomes of Canadian families….

As for job gains, well, the models actually showed productivity gains, not job gains. But knowing the public has little interest in something as esoteric as productivity gains, these somehow morphed into more politically popular job gains, in a sleight-of-hand by government spin-doctors that Stanford dubs “intellectually dishonest.”

Most far-fetched is the claim that the deal will boost the incomes of Canadian families by $1,000 each. As Stanford notes, the government simply took the $12-billion economic boost — a specious number at best — and divided it by the number of Canadian families.

National Post (Michael Den Tandt) – Stephen Harper finally gets his Churchill moment, but Iraq mission could backfire

This may be, paradoxically enough, Stephen Harper’s finest hour. The man who  admires Lincoln, Churchill and Thatcher, at last has his opportunity to lead  as he imagines they did, with unyielding conviction and no care to the political cost. Hanging in the balance are Harper’s fourth term, and his legacy…..

The wrinkle – the wild card that makes this a Hail Mary pass, in political terms – is that it all may go so very badly wrong. In effect Harper has relinquished a large measure of control over his political future to luck, and the U.S. air force, and the ability of Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites to first, cobble together a stable new polity in the midst of civil war, and second, defeat and/or contain the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, in some way that is recognizable, before Canadians go to the polls next fall. A tall order, one would think.

Esprit de Corps Magazine – Who supported the Canadian Armed Forces more: Pierre Trudeau or Stephen Harper?

In the 1970s and 1980s, we were consistently told that our military was being financially starved by Trudeau’s government. Back then, the point of reference for Trudeau’s critics always seemed to be his government’s GDP spending on defence, which seldom exceeded 2 per cent. Granted, during Trudeau’s first two terms in office GDP spending on defence declined from 2.5 per cent in 1968 to what we thought was an “all-time low” of 1.6 per cent in 1979, rising again in the 1980s to just under 2 per cent in 1984.

But, looking objectively at the data, if the Trudeau government of the 1970s and 1980s was “uncommitted” to providing financial support to the Canadian Armed Forces, then Prime Minister Harper is a true financial deadbeat. Since Harper took office in 2006, GDP spending on defence has never exceeded 1.4 per cent, which is actually lower than even the alleged “all-time low” under Trudeau. Based on data provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, GDP spending on Canada’s military in 2012 stood at around 1.14 percent of the country’s GDP.

Toronto Star (Carol Goar) Eye-opening research stopped in its tracks

It took David Hulchanski five years to create the most sophisticated tool to track urban poverty ever devised. The work was painstaking. The result was startling and worrisome.

It took Tony Clement five minutes — if that — to destroy Hulchanski’s mapping device. “My research has been turned into a historical project,” the pioneering urban planner said disconsolately.  This is one of the first documented cases of the damage done by the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to scrap Canada’s mandatory, full-length census.

Toronto Star (Carol Goar) – Scientists rail against imposed ignorance

A year ago, a handful of Toronto scientists decided they could no longer watch helplessly as the government of Canada systematically stifled information on everything from climate change to drug safety.

They formed a collective called Scientists for the Right to Know.  They compiled a list of all the public agencies that have been eliminated, all the science and knowledge-based programs that have been discarded and all the strictures that have been placed on public officials. They created a website. They urged their academic peers to speak out.   But none of them knew much about public advocacy. They were scholars after all, not lobbyists, organizers or publicists.

G&M (Gerald Caplan) – Human rights museum is indifferent to some human rights

As the brainchild of the late Izzy Asper – his photo appears on the home page of its website – the newly-opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights was always bound to be controversial. ….

Can the Museum’s Friends also have missed the dire warnings of the mainstream media? I reported on a few of them in this space recently. From columnists Andrew Coyne and Jeffrey Simpson, from Globe and Mail editorials, we find phrases like “new abuse of power by the Harper government,” “sweeping powers that is common in dictatorships,” “impugned the integrity of…the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.” Just this week in the Globe, Lawrence Martin wrote ominously that Canada has “a government where freedom of speech has become a stranger” and historian Erna Paris pleaded that the government “needs to return human rights to Canadian refugee policy

Very bad news week for SUN News, the propaganda arms of the Harper  government:

Huffington Post – CRTC Rules Against Sun News Network In Dispute With Rogers 

The struggling Sun News Network suffered another blow this week after Canada’s  broadcast regulator ruled against it in a payment dispute with Rogers, the  country’s largest cable company.

The CRTC sided with Rogers in hearings to determine how much the cable company should pay Sun News, which says it is fighting for all news services to be treated fairly, regardless of their editorial stance.

CBC – Quebecor sells 175 Sun Media newspapers and websites to Postmedia

Quebecor has agreed to sell all 175 English-language newspapers it owns under the Sun Media banner to Postmedia, the owner of the National Post and others, for $316 million.

The properties include the Toronto Sun, the Ottawa Sun, the Winnipeg Sun, the Calgary Sun and the Edmonton Sun, as well as the London Free Press and the free 24 Hours dailies in Toronto and Vancouver.

Edmonton Journal – Tories quietly shut down security advisers

Despite the Conservative government’s frequent warnings about lingering terrorist threats, it has quietly abolished a federal panel of national security advisers.

The advisory council on national security was shut down during the summer -just two years into the three-year terms of its current members.  The council was established in 2005 by the Liberal government of the day to provide confidential views on security issues in the post-9/11 era.

NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison called the council’s demise “another one of the reckless Conservative cuts.”  “This seems to be another one of the things they’ve just tried to sneak by everybody.”

University of Toronto historian Wesley Wark, an intelligence expert who served on the council from 2005 to 2009, says there is still a need for the advisory body.



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Harper Watch – September 13 to 27, 2014

The House is back and Harper government absurdities and atrocities abound in the latest issue of Harper Watch!

Huffington Post – NDP MP’s Facepalm Captures A Nation’s Frustration
(This article include a MUST WATCH video clip of this interview.)

Conservative MP Paul Calandra’s attempt to defend his performance in question period made an NDP rival facepalm right beside him on live TV Wednesday.  Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, was widely criticized and mocked this week after he responded to a straightforward question on Canada’s mission in Iraq with a bizarre non-sequitur about Israel.

On Wednesday night, Calandra appeared on CBC’s Power & Politics with NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar and Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau. Near the end of the segment, the conversation shifted to how Calandra is answering questions in the House on behalf of the government. Dewar accused the Tory MP of relying on talking points from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Huffington Post – Paul Calandra Tearfully Apologizes For Response To Thomas Mulcair
(Watch the video clip and decide for yourself if Caladra is shedding tears of remorse or humiliation at being forced to apologize.)

Conservative MP Paul Calandra fought back tears in the House of Commons Friday as he apologized to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair — and all members of Parliament — for his performance in question period this week. Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, sparked widespread criticism after he replied to a straightforward question from Mulcair on Canada’s mission in Iraq with a bizarre non-sequitur about Israel, alleging an NDP fundraiser accused the Jewish state of “genocide.”

iPolitics –  To Harper, not all child casualties of war are innocent

Before last week, I thought I understood the depth of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s malevolence. I was wrong.  Only now do I appreciate just how ugly this prime minister is. I didn’t think it was possible for even a government as rabidly partisan as this one to add Palestinian children to its long list of enemies. That’s not hyperbole.

How else can we begin to explain Harper’s failure to help Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish — a University of Toronto professor described by his Israeli colleagues as “a magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians” — in his efforts to bring 100 innocent victims of the war in Gaza to Canada for medical treatment?

iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Stephen Harper’s comeback plan: distraction
(Yes, Michael Harris is back after taking the summer off to finalize his book on the Harper majority government.  “A Party of One”  will be available in bookstores in late October, or pre-order now from Amazon.)

There’s an elephant in the room: Stephen Harper’s record in office. He needs to make it disappear. He doesn’t have much time.   Sometime between now and the autumn of 2015, Canadians must decide whether their march into the post-democratic age under Harper will continue.

The prime minister’s latest foray into one-man government was his recent end-run around a special House of Commons committee reviewing his nominations to the Supreme Court of Canada. This was his answer to ending up with the fuzzy end of the lollypop in his dust-up with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin over the unconstitutional appointment of Marc Nadon to the high court. This guy never forgets.

In the meantime, the political leader who endorses disrupting opponents’ political meetings but shuns reasoned debate, who won’t talk to the premiers but loved barbecues in Rob Ford’s backyard, and who puts out his own newscast but treats real journalists like Ebola carriers, is embarked on a course to make people forget the basic fact of every election — that it’s always about the government’s record.

Press Progress – Harper government’s new jobs plan gives “firms an incentive to fire workers

The Harper government’s new signature proposal timed for the return of Parliament on Monday “makes it weirdly profitable to fire people,” according to an independent analysis by an economist.

Mike Moffatt of the Ivey School of Business at Western University analysed the proposed Small Business Job Credit aimed at companies that pay Employment Insurance premiums equal to or less than $15,000, and found “major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.”

That’s not what the Harper government said last week when it unveiled a plan to save small businesses more than $550 million by effectively lowering EI premiums from the current legislated rate of $1.88 to $1.60 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2015 and 2016.

Canada.com – Maher: It’s getting harder to ignore Canada’s genocide

The (really good) hip hop trio A Tribe Called Red announced Friday that it won’t play a free concert to celebrate the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg on Saturday night because the museum won’t acknowledge that aboriginals were the victims of genocide.“Until this is rectified, we’ll support the museum from a distance,” said the band.

Aboriginal spiritual leaders blessed the opening of the beautiful new museum, but other aboriginals were outside, protesting, as politicians gave speeches taking credit for the $351 million project.

Huffington Post – Satellite Conservative Ministerial Staff Costs Soar 70 Per Cent
The cost of paying Conservative political staffers working in a network of satellite minister’s offices ballooned by 70 per cent during the same years the government was asking departments to tighten their belts.

Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the budget for staffing at the regional offices rose from $1.6 million to $2.7 million, according to figures tabled in the House of Commons this week.  The number of satellite locations with staff has risen from 11 to 16 to include smaller centres such as Kitchener, Ont., Charlottetown and Iqaluit…..

Liberal MP Sean Casey, who submitted the written questions about the offices in the Commons, said he has no issue with ministers having political staff organizing events and meeting with stakeholders in the regions. But Casey said the steep increase in spending is a hard pill to swallow considering recent cuts to veterans services, immigration and tax offices, and to Canada Post, among others.

“How can (Treasury Board President) Tony Clement justify cutting support for seasonal workers, cutting mail service for senior citizens, cutting support for Canada’s veterans, while spending millions of dollars on partisan advertising and operations in satellite offices,” NDP MP Dan Harris said during question period Thursday.

Toronto Star – Ottawa admits to tracking hundreds of protests

Ottawa has kept tabs on hundreds of demonstrations across Canada and around the world over the last eight years, from peaceful protests to public university lectures to riots.

Newly released documents show about 800 public demonstrations and events were observed and reported on by government departments and law enforcement agencies since 2006.

Reports were collected centrally by the Government Operations Centre, an agency tasked with preparing the federal government’s response to emergencies. Some were collected by Foreign Affairs on international protests, but the majority focused on domestic events — especially First Nations protests and environmental activism.

Newsweek – New Treaty Allows China to Sue Canada to Change its Laws

Despite public outcry, Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, ratified a controversial treaty on Friday that will allow China to sue Canada in secret tribunals for Canadian laws that interfere with Chinese investments.

Analysts interpret the move as an attempt to ease strained relations between the two nations. This summer, Canada accused China of hacking government computers, and China detained a Canadian couple for “spying.” Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and a special adviser to the Alberta government told the Globe and Mail, “We need something from China prior to the prime minister’s visit, and we’re ratifying this treaty and we’re kicking the ball over to the Chinese side to get something in return.” That “something” is thought to be the release of the couple before Harper visits China in November.

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) was quietly signed two years ago in Vladisvostok, Russia, but public protest delayed ratification up until now.

The treaty goes into effect on October 1 and will last for 31 years, until 2045. It allows China to challenge Canadian laws it deems harmful to Chinese assets, and only requires the lawsuit be made public once an award is issued by a tribunal.

iPolitics – Who wins with income-splitting? Rich Albertans.

If Stephen Harper’s goal was to design a tax policy to make income inequality in this country even worse, he can pat himself on the back. That’s exactly what the Conservatives’ family income-splitting tax scheme will do.

Research from various organizations across the political spectrum has demonstrated already that this tax policy, projected to cost the federal treasury $3 billion in 2015, would be an expensive and inequitable tax giveaway.

Pushed by social conservative groups like the Institute of Marriage and the Family Canada and REAL Women of Canada, income-splitting would benefit very few Canadian households — while lining the pockets of wealthy, traditional families with one breadwinner and a stay-at-home spouse looking after the kids.

CTV News – PM Harper pits economy against the environment, Naomi Klein says
Prominent Canadian author Naomi Klein says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s absence from Tuesday’s UN climate summit is just the latest event to demonstrate his government’s lack of interest in the environmental issues.

Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, say Harper’s policies are all designed to increase growth, “whether it’s free trade, whether it’s the tar sands.”And that logic is what is at the heart of the climate crisis.,” she told CTV Question Period.

Related: Canada risks being left behind as Green Energy takes off

Toronto Star – Oil and gas pollution committee quietly silenced

Environment Canada appears to have quietly ended key discussions that were intended to tackle carbon pollution from the oil and gas industry.

A committee made up of representatives from Environment Canada, the Alberta government and oil and gas companies was created in the fall of 2011 to develop options to reduce industrial greenhouse gases from the oilsands sector, the country’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions.

Toronto Star – Walkom: Is Stephen Harper’s global military policy delusional or just plain mad?

Sometimes, it’s as if Stephen Harper’s Conservatives suffer from delusions of grandeur.  How else to explain the decision by Canada’s apparently cash-strapped federal government to set up a network of military bases around the world?  That’s usually something only countries with imperial pretensions, such as the U.S., France and Britain, do. And even the U.S. is pulling back these days.

As reported by my colleague Allan Woods, who broke this story, Ottawa claims its new bases will ultimately save taxpayers money.  But that rationale only works if the government is planning to deploy Canadian soldiers on a regular basis to global hot spots. Are the Conservatives setting the stage for more Libyas and Afghanistans?

Ottawa Citizen – Stephen Harper government muzzles top general on eve of retirement
The outgoing leader of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) Lt.-Gen. Stu Beare …. was muzzled by the Harper government a couple of weeks ago, preventing him from talking to journalists about the challenges that CJOC and Canada face during this period of global tumult.

Forbidding Beare to speak was an example of the mindless messaging micro-management that has become one of the Harper government’s least appealing hallmarks. Such orders — and this was hardly the first — have long left the brass scratching their heads. After all, the government is constantly braying about Canada’s glorious military heritage and famously fond of talking as if nobody in the West is tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin and terrorism.


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Harper Watch – September 1 to 12, 2014


(This is by far THE WORST thing Harper has ever done and is absolutely unforgivable. We will suffer dearly for this.)

Huffington Post – Canada-China Foreign Investment Deal Gets Harper’s OK Despite Concerns

Canada has ratified the contentious Foreign Investment Protection Agreement with China. International Trade Minister Ed Fast says the deal, known as FIPA, has been ratified and will come into force on Oct. 1.

Fast says the agreement provides the protections and the confidence Canadian investors need to expand, grow and succeed abroad.But the deal, aimed at enhancing foreign investment by providing a framework of legal obligations, has been met with suspicion and alarm not just by the government’s usual critics, but Conservative cabinet ministers too.

Vancouver Observer – Harper OKs potentially unconstitutional China-Canada FIPA deal, coming into force October 1

It’s official: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) today.  In a short, two-paragraph news release, International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the deal was now ratifiedIt will come into force on October 1, 2014, and will be effective for 31 years, until 2045.

The original investment protection deal — which treaty law expert Gus Van Harten said could be in violation of the Canadian Constitution — was quietly signed in 2012 in Vladisvostok, Russia, but was delayed for two years due to public outcry.

Vancouver Observer – FIPA could force Canada to keep weak environmental laws: May

“Any state-owned enterprise from China that was counting on our weak environmental laws can sue us,” says the Green Party leader.

“China’s the larger economic power. It’s not a matter of opinion, but a fact, that in every investor state agreement, the stronger power wins,” said Green MP Elizabeth May, on the ratification of the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) today.

The ratification was announced today in a news release, saying FIPA will come into force on October 1, 2014, and will be effective for the next 31 years. May said FIPA could effectively ‘lock in’ Canada to weakened environmental regulation for the next 31 years.


Warren Reports – Conjuring an Illusion

Misdirection is a form of deception where your attention is focused on one thing to distract you from another. It’s a common trick used by magicians and political leaders alike. Stephen Harper is a master of misdirection. He has used it with great effect in his management of both the nation’s finances and our economy.

Globe and Mail – Jeffry Simpson: The PM can’t see the climate for the slush

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just completed his ninth annual summer tour of Canada’s North. These trips are fine in and of themselves. They draw attention to the North, in all its complexity. Mr. Harper announces programs. No one can gainsay that he is interested in the North – his recurring presence there testifies to that interest, even though some of his promises, especially military procurement ones, are way behind schedule and, in some cases, destined to never happen.

Nowhere in Canada is the impact of climate change more increasingly evident than the North. And yet, the words “climate change” are never heard from Mr. Harper in the North, as if the idea they connote are so distasteful that he cannot bring himself to utter them.

Toronto Star – Editorial: End secrecy around prescription drugs

Health Canada needs to clean up its shameful cult of institutional secrecy and make findings public as the American Food and Drug agency does. It’s a prescription for disaster.

Some Canadian pharmaceutical companies have sold drugs they knew were defective — putting patients at possible risk. Others have hidden, altered and in some cases destroyed test data that showed their products were tainted or potentially unsafe, or not reported side-effects suffered by consumers taking their drugs.

That’s scary enough.  But more worrisome is this: Star reporters David Bruser and Jesse McLean could not get this information from Health Canada. Instead, they had to rely on detailed notes from the American Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of Canadian companies.

Winnipeg Free Press – Editorial: Harper’s brand at odds with reality

Despite Mr. Harper’s carefully crafted image as a military leader and man of action, the Conservatives have been slashing the defence budget and delaying procurement of new ships, airplanes and army vehicles.

Some critics fear the military could be heading into another decade of darkness, similar to the 1990s when the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien slashed defence spending to balance the budget. Of course Mr. Harper’s main political priority today is a balanced budget in advance of next year’s federal election.

Huffington Post Blog – Ralph Goodale: Only Stephen Harper Stands in the Way of an Effective Government

I’ve watched a good many Premiers Conferences during my 26 years in Parliament. This year’s get-together in Charlottetown has to rank among the best for both substance and tone. On healthcare, services and facilities for the elderly, and retirement incomes for middle-class Canadians, the Premiers were right on-target…..  On all these topics, they sounded informed, reasonable and pro-active, but what they lack is a willing federal partner to work with.

In nearly nine years as Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has had only two brief meetings with all the Premiers in the same room at the same time. And on the issues raised in Charlottetown — healthcare, elder-care, pensions, the missing and murdered women, infrastructure, sustainable energy, and a “Team Canada” approach to trade and marketing — Mr. Harper has largely abandoned the field.

Atlantic Business – Stephen Kimber: What would you do to un-Harper Canada?

He’s cut the netting from under our social safety net, slashed public services, done a 180-degree foreign-affairs pirouette from global honest broker to ideological barking dog, glorified the military while denigrating veterans, stealthily imposed a new unilateral Medicare funding formula to eviscerate national health care standards and download costs on to the provinces, imposed tough-on-crime legislation and mandatory minimum sentences despite evidence they don’t work, attacked the courts, eliminated the long-form census, muzzled scientists, destroyed important data, emasculated environmental protections, audited charities and environmental critics, cut taxes for the rich while leaving gaping loopholes for offshore tax cheats, gutted the CBC, passed Orwellian legislation like the Fair Elections Act to make elections anything but…


Toronto Star – Walkom: Is Stephen Harper’s global military policy delusional or just plain mad?
“We don’t have enough equipment to stock seven bases,” he says. “What would you put in them? Boxes of Corn Flakes?”

Sometimes, it’s as if Stephen Harper’s Conservatives suffer from delusions of grandeur.  How else to explain the decision by Canada’s apparently cash-strapped federal government to set up a network of military bases around the world?

That’s usually something only countries with imperial pretensions, such as the U.S., France and Britain, do. And even the U.S. is pulling back these days.

Globe and Mail – Harper facing pressure to explain decision to send soldiers to Iraq

The Commons hasn’t resumed sitting yet, but Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson are appearing before MPs at a special committee hearing Tuesday to argue the case for Canada’s surprise decision last week to send dozens of this country’s most elite soldiers to northern Iraq.

Ottawa Citizen – Fisher: Stephen Harper government muzzles top general on eve of retirement

The outgoing leader of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) is Lt.-Gen. Stu Beare. Both he and Vance served with distinction in Afghanistan — Vance during two combat tours in Kandahar and Beare with NATO in Kabul.

Beare was muzzled by the Harper government a couple of weeks ago, preventing him from talking to journalists about the challenges that CJOC and Canada face during this period of global tumult. The general deserved better than this parting order after 36 years of service. During his Afghan and CJOC years he has been responsible for the lives of thousands of Canadians in dangerous places, as well as for spending billions of dollars.


G&M – Conservatives’ crime bill endangered by ‘administrative error

The fate of one of the federal government’s toughest crime bills is in doubt after the House of Commons sent the wrong version on to the Senate, which debated that version and sent it on to a committee for further study. The Commons’s mistake affects a key government priority – victim rights – by leaving out four amendments approved for the Fairness For Victims Act. Parliamentary experts say they have never heard of such an error being made before……

G&M – Serious error found in a second Tory crime bill

The Senate knowingly approved a crime bill with an error that could weaken the legislation and invite challenges by defence lawyers. In a second crime bill in two weeks revealed by The Globe and Mail to have reached the Senate with mistakes in it, the Senate approved measures cracking down on recruitment by criminal organizations or gangs. They became law in June.

The errors highlight the lack of scrutiny given to crime bills at a time when the Justice Department’s research staff has been sharply cut and a huge stack of these proposed get-tough laws is before Parliament – 30 are either currently being debated or became law in June.

Huffington Post – Part Of Harper Government’s Tougher Sentencing Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

The Harper government’s tough-on-crime agenda took another hit Wednesday when Ontario’s top court struck down provisions that limit pre-trial sentencing credit. In its decision, the Court of Appeal ruled the law unconstitutional because, among other things, it could create sentencing disparities for similarly placed offenders.

“Both the offender and the public must have confidence in the fairness of the sentencing process and in the results,” the court ruled.  “Public confidence in the criminal justice system would be undermined by an artificial distinction that results in longer jail terms for some offenders.”

Ottawa Citizen – Case against Del Mastro ‘overwhelming,’ Crown argues

All the evidence presented in MP Dean Del Mastro’s election fraud trial backs up the story told by key witness Frank Hall, while Del Mastro’s story doesn’t match the facts, a prosecutor told a judge in Peterborough on Thursday.

“The evidence of guilt in this case is overwhelming,” Tom Lemon told Judge Lisa Cameron as the Crown presented its final arguments.


Ottawa Citizen – Ottawa architect says government ‘stealing’ site for communism memorial
(A building with PET’s name on it just wouldn’t do in Harperland, and a jab at the Federal Court is just icing on the cake)

A prominent Ottawa architect is accusing the federal government of “stealing” the site that’s been chosen for the new Memorial to Victims of Communism.

In an open letter to Stephen Harper, Barry Padolsky urges the prime minister to find a “more appropriate” location for the memorial, to be built on a 5,000-square-metre property on Wellington Street, next to the Supreme Court of Canada.

That site had long been designated as the future location of a new building for the Federal Court of Canada, called the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Judicial Building in government planning documents.

Padolsky says the Trudeau building — or another comparable structure — is the missing piece in a planned “judicial triad” that would include the Supreme Court of Canada Building and the Justice Building on its eastern flank.

Globe and Mail – Harper’s caucus control described in book by MP, a former Tory

Upset with the Conservative government’s handling of the F-35 jet purchase, Brent Rathgeber wrote a blog entry critiquing it. It was an innocuous act, save for one detail: He was a Conservative MP himself.

Soon after, the phone rang, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office on the line demanding the blog post be taken down. Mr. Rathgeber’s aide refused. “You don’t understand; I am calling from the PMO,” the staffer replied.

The Lapine – Harper Discovered Sunken Franklin Ship While Scuba Diving
(OK it’s just satire..for now…if Harper had his way this is how it would read in the history books)

“He was barely at a depth of 9 meters (30 feet) when he spotted a sparkle…a quick flicker of sunlight…on something far below him.”

“You can imagine the Honourable Prime Minister’s reaction, his sheer excitement, when he realized that he had just caught the first glimpse of a ship lost for more than 169 years.”


Inside Climate News – Keystone Ads Mislead on Canada’s Deep Cuts to Environmental Monitoring

Meanwhile, Canada’s advertising campaign—which includes the pro-oil sands government website gowithcanada.ca—touts Canada as a reliable partner and a “world environmental leader in the oil and gas sector.” It also boasts of a new oil sands monitoring system “founded on science and transparency.”

Harper’s government defends the campaign, saying it wants to ensure that other countries get all the facts. But one fact the ads don’t mention is that the oil sands industry’s rising carbon footprint is projected to wipe out reductions elsewhere in Canada’s economy, putting Harper’s commitment to reduce annual emissions to about 3 percent above 1990 levels by 2020 out of reach.

Herald News – Request to interview federal scientist sparks 110 pages of government emails
(Whatever you do, don’t ask about rock snot in Harperland!)

It was a story about rock snot. And if there’s a person you want to talk to about the pervasive algae also known by the less-offensive, more scientific name of Didymo, it’s Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist Max Bothwell.

But a request from The Canadian Press to speak to Bothwell when the article was published in May failed to produce an interview. What it did produce was 110 pages of emails to and from 16 different federal government communications operatives, according to documents obtained using access to information legislation.

Huffington Post – Canada’s War on Science Brings Us International Shame

A push to prioritize economic gains over basic research is endangering science and academic freedom in countries around the world, according to a new report published by a leading researchers union, the French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS-FSU).

The research union found governments internationally are pushing for policies “geared towards innovation in order to spur consumption and competitiveness,” according to Patrick Monfort, secretary-general of the SNCS-FSU. “Budget cuts are often blamed for our problems,” he said, “but they are only part of the picture.”

Monfort told the prestigious journal Nature that scientists in Canada have been particularly hard hit, not only by broad funding cuts, but contentious communications protocols that prevent their freedom of expression.


Toronto Star – Is part-time work the new normal?: Goar

For the past year, the only part of Canada’s job market that has showed any sign of life has been part-time employment.  The numbers are striking. Since last autumn, Canada has created 50,000 part-time jobs but lost 20,000 full-time positions.  What was once a whisper — are we becoming a nation of part-timers? — has swollen into a worried chorus.

Fortunately, one financial institution has taken up the cause. The Toronto Dominion Bank recently issued a special report entitled Part-Time Nation: Is Canada Becoming a Nation of Part-Time Employed?

The bank’s economists deserve credit for taking Canadians’ concerns seriously. Their research is informative. But their analysis is far less bold than its provocative title.

PSAC – Government tables “Go-to-work-sick” proposal for federal public service

During negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada yesterday, federal government negotiators tabled a proposal that would gut the sick leave provisions for employees of the federal public service.

If implemented, workers will be forced to choose between going to work sick or losing pay for basic necessities. The proposal would eliminate all accumulated sick leave for public servants, reduce the amount of annual sick leave to 37.5 hours a year subject to the absolute discretion of the employer, and institute a 7-day waiting period without pay before people can access short-term disability benefits.

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Harper Watch, August 21 to August 31, 2014


Vancouver Observer – Harper’s Nobel Peace Prize nomination slammed as ‘outrageous’
Strong reaction to a national Jewish organization’s nomination of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a Nobel Peace Prize continues to mount.
The news was more than a representative of the Canada Palestine Association could bear.
“With nominating him, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” said Hanna Kawas, Vancouver chairperson of the organization, on Sunday.
“It’s outrageous.”

Huffington Post – Stephen Harper’s Nobel Prize Nomination Sparks Outrage
With such a long list of competitors, the odds are against Harper receiving the prize. But that hasn’t stopped more than 10,000 people from signing an online petition to ensure it doesn’t happen.
The Change.org petition says it would be a “disgrace and insult to your prestigious award” to give Harper the prize. As of Tuesday morning, the drive had received roughly 12,000 signatures.


Grenfell Sun – Ralph Goodale: A hard look at Mr. Harper’s Economic Record
When the next federal election rolls around, likely next spring, Stephen Harper says he wants to campaign on his economic record.  Well bring it on.
That record is highlighted by some spectacular failures

Toronto Star – Carol Goar: Tony Clement hatches open government plan
Now — from the minister who saved the government $15 billion without telling Parliament what he cut; the policy-maker who eliminated Canada’s information-laden census and chopped Statistics Canada’s budget by $30 million; the MP who siphoned $50 million out of a border security fund to build to band shells and gazebos in his riding — comes Tony Clement’s latest initiative: a “ new action plan on open government .”
The Treasury Board president proudly announced this week he has prepared a draft policy “to increase openness and transparency in government.” He is inviting the public to comment
It will come as a surprise to most Canadians that a government known for its secrecy and obfuscation is “committed to fostering the principles of open government.”

Michael Spratt – Fact vs. Fiction: Rona Ambrose’s laughable claims about Conservative ‘evidence based policy’
The fact that Ambrose felt the need to assert publicly that her government drafts policy based on facts — not on hunches, hearsay or blind ideology — highlights the Harper government’s essential problem when it comes to getting Canadians to sign on to its program: It does not believe in fact-based policy and seldom feels the need to behave as if it does.

Globe and Mail – Konrad Yakabuski  : From sugar to drugs, Harper has turned everything partisan
Warning young people about the dangers of smoking pot should be about as controversial as telling them to brush their teeth. The same goes for recommending that adults consume no more sugar than they can bench-press. Health officials are right to point out the pitfalls of both.
This is Canada, in 2014, however, where the Harper government’s insistence on putting its political stamp on policies that were previously left to independent agencies or experts in the bureaucracy means that even its public service announcements (PSAs) are suspect. Where an anti-pot ad aimed at teens seems partisan and nutritional guidelines seem to go light on the sugar lobby.

On the lighter side: Stephen Lautens’ #MacKayTees


Globe and Mail – The PM can’t see the climate for the slush
Nowhere in Canada is the impact of climate change more increasingly evident than the North. And yet, the words “climate change” are never heard from Mr. Harper in the North, as if the idea they connote are so distasteful that he cannot bring himself to utter them.
Every summer, surrounded by the evidence of Northern climate change – melting ice, widening sea lanes, disruption of traditional hunting patterns, shifting tundra, increased sun reflection, changing weather patterns – the Prime Minister spends a week in the region without ever drawing attention to the impact and challenges of climate change.


Press Progress – It’s not clear any Conservatives actually read damning Lac-Mégantic report
Just tell people you haven’t gotten around to reading the report yet. Because if you haven’t read it, it hasn’t happened yet.
That appears to be the Conservatives’ bright idea on how to defend themselves against Tuesday’s damning Transporation Safety Board report that concluded Transport Canada’s weak oversight was a cause and contributing factor in last year’s Lac-Mégantic train derailment that killed 47 people.


Global – Wynne blasts Harper’s ‘outrageous’ comments on murdered aboriginal women
TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wrong in saying that police investigations, not a national inquiry, are the best way to deal with crimes involving missing and murdered aboriginal women, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.
“For Stephen Harper to say that there’s not a systemic aspect to this, I think is just – I think it’s outrageous quite frankly,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
All the provinces and territories endorsed calls for a public inquiry when they gathered last year in Ontario for the annual Council of the Federation premiers’ conference. They’ll meet up again next week in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where they’ll talk with aboriginal leaders.

Yukon News – Stupidity outbreak mars Harper’s visit
What a relief. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Whitehorse yesterday and shared with the territory a fresh insight: the plight of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada is not, in fact, a “sociological phenomenon.” Rather, the root of the problem is that we simply haven’t locked enough people away in prison.
“We should view it as crime,” Harper said. “It is crime against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.”
Well, that makes things much tidier, doesn’t it?

ATPN News – Harper and his fly thru corporate visit to Iqaluit
Great video of Harper not answering questions and Laureen evading the point.


Global News – Half of Canada’s severely wounded soldiers not getting disability cheque
OTTAWA – A new report by Canada’s veterans watchdog says nearly half of the country’s most severely disabled ex-soldiers are not receiving a government allowance intended to compensate them for their physical and mental wounds.
Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent also says those who are receiving the permanent impairment allowance, along with a recently introduced supplement, are only awarded the lowest grade of the benefit.
Parent says the criteria used by federal bureaucrats to evaluate disability do not match the intent of the allowance, and that the guidelines are too restrictive.


The Star – Wynne blames Harper for blocking constructive relations between Ottawa, provinces
Premier Kathleen Wynne says it’s difficult to get things accomplished nationally when Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands in the way of constructive relations between the provinces and Ottawa.
As the premiers head to P.E.I. next week for their annual gathering to discuss matters of common concern, the federal government, and in particular Harper, are expected to loom large on the agenda.
“Stephen Harper has chosen to deal with the . . . provinces one at a time as opposed to dealing with us in any kind of collective way,” Wynne, outgoing chair of the Council of the Federation, told the Star Friday.


Globe and Mail – Staffing cuts strain Justice Department
The Conservative government has been sharply reducing the expertise on hand in the Justice Department, even as its tough-on-crime agenda continues to be a major priority, with dozens of laws being debated and changed at the same time.
In a year when several key criminal laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, or given an interpretation that dramatically softened their impact, the Justice Department has been flying by the seat of its pants after sharp cuts to the number of researchers and lawyers and frequent demands for the speedy drafting of new laws, according to interviews with former senior bureaucrats and the release of an internal report.

Straight.com – Stephen Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda linked to increasingly dangerous prisons
In federal prisons across Canada, inmates are at a greater risk of violence than they were 10 years ago.
As the Straight reported in July, statistics obtained through a freedom of information request show numbers are up for assault, sexual assault, and attempted suicide. The use of solitary confinement has also increased.
According Gord Robertson, Pacific regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, it’s a combination of factors that’s causing prisons to become increasingly dangerous places.


The Star – Harper government asks public servants to delete emails
“Given the current government’s track record, a red flag has to go up anytime our members are instructed to delete information,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
“Gathering, maintaining, and assessing evidence has become increasingly difficult under this government and its fondness for secrecy, which has led to muzzling of government scientists.”

rushprnews- Harper’s government targeting poor seniors on guaranteed income
Halifax, NS (RPRN) 08/27/14 — Under proposed changes to prescribed annuity taxation, Canadian poor seniors will pay a lot more taxes. These changes are hidden in the proposal for changes in the exemption test of life policies modifying Subsection 300(2) of the Income Tax Regulations.

The Star – Ontario says ‘No’ to removing citizenship by birth on soil
The Ontario government says it will not support Ottawa’s proposal to remove citizenship rights to children born in Canada to non-citizens and non-residents.
“In our view, there is not enough evidence to justify the effort and expense required for such a system-wide program change. Citizenship and immigration Canada has not quantified the extent of fraud resulting from ‘birth tourism,’’ said Ontario Deputy Immigration Minister Chisanga Puta-Chekwe.
“At this time, there is insufficient data to demonstrate the demand placed on Ontario’s economy or public services from ‘birth tourists,’” he wrote in a letter to Ottawa, dated September 6, 2012, after a technical briefing on the plan. A copy of the province’s response was obtained by the Star this week.


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Harper Watch, August 1 to August 20, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.



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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