Harper Watch, April 2 to April 11, 2014


OPINION

(Also, check out the BEST RANT OF THE WEEK at the bottom of this post)

National Post (Andrew Coyne) – Very little ‘fair’ about how Conservatives are pushing controversial Elections Act
(Damning commentary on the Unfair Elections Act by a former apologist for the Harper Conservatives.)

It is coarse to imagine the Conservatives are conspiring to fix the next election, in plain sight of everyone. If you were bent on suppressing the opposition vote, evading spending limits, and otherwise participating in electoral fraud, presumably you would not take the trouble to advertise this in legislation. On the other hand, if they are not up to no good, they are doing their best to convince people they are. The secrecy surrounding the Fair Elections Act, the failure to consult in advance of its drafting, the curtailment of debate after, the supreme indifference to legitimate criticism, all under the chilling oversight of the Minister for Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, would be enough to make anyone nervous.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: In the Tories’ partisan Bizarro World, every critic of Fair Elections Act is biased
(Mr. Coyne nails it again)
Ideas previously accepted as axiomatic — that everyone has a right to vote, that those who don’t vote should be encouraged to, that public confidence in elections should not be undermined nor the integrity of their administrators lightly impugned — are now in play. The people who uphold these ideas — experts in election law, present and former elections officials, people with long experience in the legal and political worlds who have earned reputations for sound judgment — now find themselves dismissed as biased, or even bought. Because there are now “sides” to this question.

G&M – With this act, Conservatives might win the battle, lose the war I’m not sure whether Pierre Poilievre dreams of becoming a Republican when he grows up, but the Minister of State for Democratic Reform and his boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, should consider the mistakes of their U.S. brethren before ramming their flawed elections bill through Parliament. From its patronizing title to its self-serving provisions, Mr. Poilievre’s Fair Elections Act is a Conservative version of the kind of bills Republican state legislatures have tried to pass, in some cases successfully, as a seawall against the demographic tsunami threatening their party.

The Globe and Mail – The Harper machine is in disarray
What’s often been reputed to be a well-oiled machine has seldom been in such a state of disarray.
The young and extremely partisan Mr. Soudas, who had previously served in the Prime Minister’s Office as one of the so-called boys in short pants, was hired to be the party’s principal election organizer. But he meddled too much in trying to secure the nomination of his fiancée, MP Eve Adams, in a Toronto-area riding.

National Post – Dear Diary: Eve Adams gets her way if you like it or not
(Sorry, couldn’t resist)
Tuesday
I came home to find that Dimitri had lovingly prepared a candlelit dinner of spaghetti bolognese. “That’s so sweet, my pet” I told him, before upending the table onto the floor. “You know I went gluten free last week.” As he cleaned up the mess, I outlined his new campaign tasks: door knockings, several “persuasive” phone calls, and I’ll need him to swing by Conservative HQ to find some dirt on those rats at the riding association. He stammered something about losing his job — but I cut him off with a kiss.

Star – Harper government drives up youth unemployment: Goar
The Stephen Harper and his colleagues are sidelining young Canadian job seekers with their policies, their choices and their blind spots.
A government bent on lowering the living standard of Canada’s next generation couldn’t do a much better job than Stephen Harper and his colleagues have done.
The Prime Minister and his high-octane employment minister, Jason Kenney, have thrown one barrier after the next in front of young job seekers. Canada’s youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age, both sexes) was 12.2 per cent when the Conservatives took power in 2006. Today, it is 13.6 per cent. But the numbers tell only part of the story. Hundreds of thousands of young people have given up their job search and gone back to school. Others have simply disappeared from the head count.

 

THE TRAVESTY OF THE “FAIR” ELECTIONS ACT

Huffington Post – Fair Elections Act: Public Prosecutor Not Consulted On Planned New Role
(The media is finally getting deeper into the Unfair Elections Act.   This article reveals truly sickening information.)

The Harper government did not consult the director of public prosecutions about its controversial plan to put him in charge of the investigative arm of Elections Canada — a move that departs from a long-standing principle that prosecutors and investigators should be kept separate. The plan to hive off the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada and move him under the auspices of the director of public prosecutions is a key component of a proposed overhaul of election laws, which has been almost universally panned by Canadian and international electoral experts.

CBC News – Public prosecutor not consulted on election law overhaul
The Harper government did not consult the director of public prosecutions about its controversial plan to put him in charge of the investigative arm of Elections Canada.
The plan to hive off the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada and move him under the auspices of the director of public prosecutions is a key component of the government’s proposed overhaul of election laws.
It’s a departure from a long-standing principle that prosecutors and investigators should be kept separate.

The Hill Times – Partisan poll supervisors could lead to intimidation on election day, say critics
Appointing central poll supervisors from partisan lists is neither fair nor appropriate and could undermine Canadians’ confidence in the democratic process, election administration expert Harry Neufeld says, while the NDP warns the Tories would make use of the changes to increase their partisan presence at the polls. Bill C-23, the elections bill, would change the way all four election administration positions at any given polling station are appointed. Three of them—deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers—are already appointed from lists provided by the candidate of the party that finished first (deputy returning officers) or second (poll clerks) in the previous election.

Huffington Post – Fair Elections Act Will Hurt Aboriginal Voting: First Nations
Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for the bill, has repeatedly stressed it is reasonable to expect people to properly identify themselves before they vote. He cites 39 different pieces of identification that can be used.
Christiansen, a status Indian who has lived most of her life on reserve, has a different perspective.
“I have reviewed that list and unlike Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, who has numerous pieces of identification in his wallet, most First Nations people do not have any of those — much less one that contains an address,” she said.
Status cards, for instance, are government-issued photo ID but have no address on them. The cards expire and can take years to renew, the committee was told.

iPolitics – Fraser tells MPs she’s greatly disturbed by Poilievre’s words
It was electoral reform theme day on Parliament Hill.
The day began with Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre taking a blistering run at critics of the Fair Elections Act and progressed as a volley of returned fire from those critics, including former auditor general Sheila Fraser, who was blunt before both House and Senate committees examining the bill.
“It troubles me greatly… disturbs me greatly, to see comments that are made, and I will be quite blunt, by the minister… attacking personally the Chief Electoral Officer,” Fraser said. “This serves none of us well. It undermines the credibility of these institutions.”

iPolitics – Fraser holds her own on Fair Elections Act
Poilievre has also spent more than a week attempting to frame Fraser’s views on the bill as the product of a conflict of interest stemming from her role as chair of an Elections Canada advisory board. Since Fraser gave an interview last week characterizing the Fair Elections Act as an “attack on democracy,” she has been painted by the government as part of a sort of Elections Canada cabal whose criticism of the bill represents a difference of opinion with the Tories but whose motives are somehow suspect.
Fraser, once described by the prime minister as a woman of courage and integrity, called Poilievre’s language about Mayrand this morning “unfortunate” and indicated she never expected to see an independent officer of parliament treated so poorly.
“I think it is very unfortunate when an officer of Parliament is treated that way,” she said, adding that she finds Mayrand a “honourable man.”

The Globe and Mail – Fair is foul: We’re being told a tall tale on election fraud
Once upon a time, I shall begin this column. Because with the Fair Elections Act, currently being sped through the House of Commons as though it were about to turn into a pumpkin, the Conservative government has ceased to tell Canadians legends or folk tales.
Those are yarns generally grounded in the belief that the events at their core are, on some level, true – and what we are being told is a fairy tale. Bill C-23 is the Fairy Tale Elections Act.

rabble.ca – Pierre Poilievre does not speak the truth
The 34-year old Minister of State will not debate, of course.
He only appears one on one with interviewers — who don’t seem, by and large, to buy his snake oil, and who generally ask some tough and skeptical questions.
But interviewers cannot be experts in everything. Despite their best efforts, Poilievre throws out a whole lot of howlers that his interlocutors do not usually challenge.

The Globe and Mail – Bruce Anderson: Conservatives will only lose fighting Sheila Fraser
When in 2004 Ms. Fraser made the case that Canadians were being ripped off, it was only a matter of time before the Liberal Party was kicked out of office. In the evidence she tabled and the way she made her case, she earned a reputation as someone who could be trusted to tell it like it is.
This week, she weighed in on the Fair Elections Act, joining a large chorus of critics, but with a voice that will stand out. She seldom discusses politics, and appears to carry no partisan ambition. Asked by the Chief Elections Officer to provide an evaluation of the bill, she found it nothing less than an “attack on democracy.”

(What is the Fair Elections Act? Read The Globe and Mail’s easy explanation)
How the Conservatives respond to her critique of their bill is no trivial matter.
Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Polievre has said the bill is terrific as it is. He allows that it’s possible someone might find a flaw and a way to improve it. But he seems not to have heard of any yet. His cocksure style makes it easy to imagine the government will do little but pay lip service – actually more like curled lip service – to ideas from outside the Conservative Party tent.
Some Tory partisans seem tempted to dismiss Ms. Fraser as someone with no relevant expertise. As rebuttals go, this is a terrible choice, and will backfire badly if they persist with it.

The Broadbent Institute – How the (Un)Fair Elections Act would play out on the ground
The perception that a Conservative party agenda is written into the so-called ‘Fair Elections Act’ has the national media and pundits talking. And for good reason. In light of recent Conservative run-ins with Elections Canada and the RCMP, the skepticism towards the changes to the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the Commissioner of Elections Canada are understandable
While the media focus on these elements of the Act is warranted, there are other aspects of the bill that are equally troubling because of their potential effects on local campaigns in Electoral Districts (EDs) across the country.
 

National Post – Former campaign worker granted immunity after he gives evidence in ‘Pierre Poutine’ robocalls case
Former Guelph Conservative campaign worker Andrew Prescott has given evidence related to the alleged involvement of two other campaign staff in the “Pierre Poutine” robocalls case, sources say.
With an immunity agreement in place, Prescott gave evidence to prosecutors regarding the only person accused in the case, Michael Sona, as expected, but also provided information about Ken Morgan, who was the manager of the Guelph Conservative campaign.
Morgan moved to Kuwait in 2012 and is still believed to be living there. To date, he has never spoken to Elections Canada investigators about his role in the campaign at the centre of the robocalls scandal.
Prescott, who has repeatedly stated that he is innocent of wrongdoing in the scheme to misdirect opposition supporters, reached a deal with prosecutors in January that gives him some protection from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

HARPER’S TREATMENT OF VETERANS: CANADA’S SHAME

Huffington Post – Romeo Dallaire: Tory Complaints Over Veterans Costs ‘Pissing Me Off’
But he said he’s been hearing privately from politicians who complain about the price tag: the Conservative government spends roughly $3.8 billion each year on the Veterans Affairs Department.
“And I say: Oh, yeah?” said Dallaire, describing how he walks them through the dollar cost of equipping and deploying the military on missions like the recently concluded 12-year mission in Afghanistan.
“And then I say, ‘Now that they’re home — and the ones that are injured — they cost too much?’ This has been sniffing its way around the Conservative hallways and it’s pissing me off.”

The Ottawa Citizen - Peter MacKay’s Afghanistan Wishes; Rewriting History One Wish At A Time
“I don’t think the ferocity of the mission perhaps dawned on even military leaders, let alone political leaders of two different governments,” he said. “In retrospect, we could have perhaps prepared our soldiers better through both equipment and training,” he added.
Also on his list of “wishes” were better services for those who are now suffering from PTSD/mental health issues from overseas operations.
“I wish we could have, perhaps, been able to reach out into our country’s mental health providers to enlist their support that’s needed now,” MacKay said.
How interesting.

HARPER’S ENTOURAGE: HAVE WE NOT REACHED THE BOTTOM YET?

Huffington Post – Tory Senator Linda Frum: Elections Canada In Conflict Of Interest For Promoting Voter Turnout
Conservative Senator Linda Frum says Elections Canada’s efforts to increase voter turnout put it in a conflict of interest.
Frum has made the argument before while promoting her party’s Bill C-23 (Fair Elections Act), but a tweet on the subject Wednesday promoted backlash on social media that led the senator to attempt to reframe her position.
After pollster and pundit Bruce Anderson asked if anyone had a transcript of Frum’s previous comments on the Chief Electoral officer, the senator tweeted that “Elections Canada should not have a vested interest in recording a high voter turnout. That’s a conflict.”

Huffington Post – 3 Tory Staffers Interfered In Access To Information: Watchdog
(Public Works investigating itself? Not likely.)
OTTAWA – The Information Commissioner of Canada has found evidence of “systemic interference” with access to information requests by three Conservative staff members, and suggests bringing in the police.
But Public Works Minister Diane Finley, who oversees the department where the interference occurred before her time, won’t be sending the matter to the Mounties. Her office linked the findings against the three staffers to a related case that did not result in criminal charges.

The Globe and Mail – Police raid home of man PMO endorsed to head Montreal port
Quebec’s anti-corruption unit has raided the home of a former municipal bureaucrat who was once heavily promoted by the federal government to take over the Montreal Port Authority.
The investigation got a boost earlier this year when the city of Montreal lifted solicitor-client privilege and allowed all lawyers involved to freely discuss their knowledge of events with UPAC investigators, a city spokesperson said.
As part of the early morning raids, police searched the home of Robert Abdallah, the director-general of the city of Montreal from 2003 to 2006. In 2007, Mr. Abdallah was the Conservative government’s favoured candidate to become the president of the Montreal Port Authority.
UPAC also seized documents at the residences of former Montreal city councillor Frank Zampino and construction magnate Antonio Accurso.
The pair, who both had an involvement in the water-meter contract, were also strong backers of Mr. Abdallah’s candidacy at the Montreal port.

The Globe and Mail – Harper’s former adviser to release book in early May
(Some are biting back)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reputed to be a man with a penchant for control, a leader with a grip on the Conservative communications machine.
So when one of his former advisers several years ago wrote an insider book called Harper’s Team, the Prime Minister’s Office, the author says, asked him not to publish it.
That writer, Tom Flanagan, now is back with a forthcoming book, Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age, that speaks of Mr. Harper in “Nixonian” terms, as a man who “believes in playing politics right up to the edge of the rules, which inevitably means some team members will step across ethical or legal lines in their desire to win for the Boss.”

ANOTHER LOSS IN COURT FOR THE HARPER GOVERNMENT

The Globe and Mail – Supreme Court deals another blow to Harper
The Conservative government’s attempt to detain thousands of prisoners for longer periods has been blocked, in the newest in a series of crushing defeats at the Supreme Court of Canada.
The 7-0 ruling comes after three unanimous or near-unanimous defeats in the past month, including a rejection of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s latest choice for a position on the court, Justice Marc Nadon, whom it ruled ineligible.

BEST RANT OF THE WEEK

Posted by Douglas Connors on Facebook in response to Pierre Poilievre’s self-aggrandizing announcement that he was “acclaimed” to run in the riding of Rideau-Carlton:
(An excellent summary of the Conservatives’ excuse-making, blame-shifting and character assassinations)

So…If I got this right…

The media is inherently biased against you, so your boss doesn’t answer questions and had the PMO produce his news clips.
The public service is inherently biased against you, so you must make huge cuts while not telling anyone, including your fellow Parliamentarians, what or how much you are cutting.
The foreign aid providers are inherently biased against you, so you must destroy CIDA and the roundtable at which they coordinate their NGO activities.
Anyone who supports the right of Palestine to exist is inherently biased against you, so you must cut their funding.
Anyone who dares ask a question about our role in Afghanistan is inherently biased against you — and is a Taliban-lover — so you must not release information on possible torture.
The Opposition is inherently biased against you, so you must spend tons of citizens’ resources trying to obliterate it.
The Supreme Court (and all Courts) are inherently biased against you, so you must destroy Canadians’ faith in the system by crying: “Activist judges!”
The Constitution is inherently biased against you, so you must try to sneak amendments to it in Omnibus budget bills, which also happens to be unconstitutional.
Our electoral conventions are inherently biased against you, so you must portray a coalition as being anti-democratic.
The Senate is inherently biased against you, so you must stuff it with hacks who don’t even live in the provinces they represent, which also happens to be unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court nomination process is inherently biased against you, so you must become the first party to ever botch a nomination AND pass an unconstitutional budget in order to do it.
The Chiefs of Police are inherently biased against you, so you must smear them when they comes out in favour of a long-gun registry, or you must smear the RCMP for storing guns left in plain sight during a natural disaster.
Human Rights Organizations are inherently biased against you, so you must sic Ezra Levant on them at any given time
The lawyers at the Ministry of Justice are inherently biased against you, so you must never take their advice and spend citizens’ money on hiring private lawyers to take on your legal wild goose chases.
The people at the Bank of Canada are inherently biased against you, so you must never borrow money from it at lower rates to service our debt, but borrow it from private banks instead.
The provincial and territorial Premiers are inherently biased against you, so your boss should never meet with them all, at one time, in one place.
The people are inherently biased against you, so you must engage in the largest suppression of human rights in Canadian history.
The voters are inherently biased against you, so you must never have any open meeting at which citizens can just show up, you must creep their Facebook pages, block those who believe different from you from your events, and never allow the PM to be alone among the great unwashed.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer your party appointed is inherently biased against you, so you must engage in character assassination.
The Head of Statistics Canada (which was one of the Top 3 independent statistics organizations in the world before your vandalism of it ) is inherently against you so you must pretend he made claims in support of you that he indeed never made… so much so that he resigned from his dream job in protest.
Provincial and Territorial Chief Electoral Officers are inherently biased against you, so you claim with a straight fact that you know better what it is they are saying than are they (?!?)
The Chief Electoral officer is inherently against you (even though you’ve “won*” the last 3 elections) so you must castrate and humiliate him, and attempt to destroy the confidence Canadians have in our electoral commission (which is touted as being THE preeminent electoral body in the world).
And now Sheila Fraser is inherently biased against you that you claim her opinion can be bought for about $200/month!!!
Either many among you are soon gonna wind up in a rubber room with PJs that lace up in the back and a complimentary hockey helmet from being this paranoid that everyone is out to “gitcha”, or many among you are going to end up in jail for having committed the greatest fraud in Canadian history upon Canadian citizens (and bleeding the treasury dry in the process).
Sorry there Pepe le Pewlièvre, but when you guys went after Sheila, you guys “jumped the shark” as they call it in TV land. Methinks the reason for which you were acclaimed is because now, only the neediest of media-whores would attempt to throw their hat in the ring for a Conservative nomination, given you guys are working hard to achieve a two-seat repeat!

won* =
* 2006: In-and-Out. After denying for years they did anything wrong, they finally admitted it and settled.
*2008: Broke their own fixed election date law (just like Marois did in Québec) to sneak in a win before the economic crisis (which they say they did not see coming, when they had data in June and July indicating it was already upon us) hit REALLY hard.
*2011: Robofraud, vote-moving, and Out-and-In (instead of In-and-Out) You or your party has never actually won one of your elections yet without cheating and have shown many times over that you and your party have consistently proven that you possess neither any respect for our Constitution, nor any basic comprehension of what it actually says (which is a requirement of the job you hold) so why would any Canadian trust you or your party on electoral law reform today?

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Harper Watch, March 25 to April 1, 2014


COMMENTARY

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Fair Elections Act proof the Conservatives are no normal government
In normal times, under a normal government, the Fair Elections Act would have been withdrawn by now, or at least be in serious trouble. The past few weeks have seen the bill denounced as a threat to democracy by the chief electoral officer, the former chief electoral officer, several provincial elections officials, academic experts domestic and foreign, and newspaper editorials across the country……
But as this is not a normal government, Mr. Poilievre has instead doubled down. To the detailed objections of its critics, he offers nothing but the same, and I mean exactly the same, talking points, recited without evident effort to persuade but merely to impress upon his listeners how genuinely uninterested in their opinion he is. To Mr. Neufeld’s complaints at having his report misrepresented, he responds that Mr. Neufeld does not understand his own report. The inaccurate and out-of-context passages he had cited from it were, he told Parliament, quoted “accurately and in context.” If Mr. Neufeld did not wish to use these words, he blithely told the CBC’s Evan Solomon, he should not have written them.

Maclean’s – Paul Wells: Farewell then, Hand-Picked Dimitri Soudas

“Today I am writing to direct your full attention to the Confidential Memo I received today from Dimitri Soudas, the dynamic new Executive Director of the Conservative Party hand-picked by Prime Minister Harper,” Sen. Irving Gerstein wrote in a letter to Conservative donors dated 16 days ago.

And barely two weeks later it has all turned to ashes, because three days after Hand-Picked Dimitri sent his Confidential Memo to Irv describing the urgent, pressing, critical, essential crisis menacing Stephen Harper’s very future and —as if this even needed saying! — the Commonwealth’s along with it, Hand-Picked Dimitri reportedly drove his life partner Eve Adams to a riding-association meeting in Oakville—North Burlington, where Adams is not the incumbent MP, and waited outside in the hall while she made enough of a scene to get herself kicked out. Then he fired the guy who wrote to the party complaining about her behaviour. What a coincidence.

The Age – Canada’s attack on democracy sets tone for Australia

(Canada used to be famous for being fair-minded and democratic…)

Australians who value democracy should turn their eyes to Canada to catch a glimpse of what might be heading our way.

Two weeks ago, international academics added their names to a call by 160 Canadian experts to stop a piece of legislation being rushed through parliament that aims to radically change electoral processes in Canada.

Introduced by the Conservative Party government in Canada, and with a name that would do George Orwell proud, the ‘’Fair Elections Act’’ seeks to insert partisanship and inequality into Canadian electoral procedures in a manner reminiscent of 19th century processes. The proposed act will reduce voting rights, foster partisan bias in election administration and weaken campaign finance laws.

The New York Times – Is Canada tarring itself?

START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.

Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.

Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes. Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition. Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.

CANADA’S PUBLIC HEALTH CARE IN JEOPARDY

The Star – It’s a sad day for Canadian health care, says Roy Romanow

Monday was a sad day for health care in Canada, says Roy Romanow, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan and one-time chair of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care.

The day marked the end of the Health Council of Canada and the 10-year health accord that led to its creation.

“It’s a blow to nation-building because it’s a blow to one of our revered, if not most revered, social programs, which is medicare,” Romanow said in a phone interview from the University of Saskatchewan where he teaches classes in federalism.

Ottawa Citizen – Calls grow for leadership as national health accord expires

The Ottawa Hospital chief of staff, who has helped pioneer care for the homeless in Ottawa, said inequality as seen in the poor health of society’s most vulnerable is growing.

“We have not delivered on the promise of a universal health care system that reinforces equity as an important Canadian principle and, in fact, it seems that we are farther away from this than we have ever been,” he said.

“We are at risk of losing something that is very important to all of us, and while we have a lot to lose, we also have a lot to gain and in the end no Canadian can be left behind.”

THE OMNI BUS ROLLS OUT AGAIN

CBC News – Conservative budget bill loaded with unrelated measures, critics say
The 359-page bill changes nearly 40 pieces of legislation, from rail safety to the appointment of judges

NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen could not contain his exasperation, noting there are actually items in the bill his party supports — such as a reversal on imposing GST on hospital parking and some of the targeted tax credits.

It’s all that other unrelated stuff that drives opposition MPs wild.

“Our past experience has taught us that the devil lies in the details,” he said.

Harper himself, as a young opposition MP, once eloquently critiqued Liberal omnibus legislation because of the dilemma it posed for parliamentarians trying to do their job responsibly.

As the young Harper implored in 1995, “In the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?”

“We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?”

The Liberal omnibus bill that drew Harper’s ire in 1995 was 21 pages in length and altered 11 existing pieces of legislation.

WRONG AGAIN STEVE

Montreal Gazette – Budget watchdog says Harper government wrong on labour, skill shortages in Canada

The government has made much of a skills mismatch to justify measures such as the foreign temporary workers program, stricter employment insurance eligibility rules and the Canada Jobs Grant program.

But the office says there’s no evidence to suggest the current situation is any different from that prior to the 2008-09 recession, and that some level of skills mismatch in an economy is normal.

 iPolitics – Lies, damn lies and Canada’s job stats

A healthy labour market is perhaps the single most important indicator of a government’s economic success. It’s also one of the most susceptible to rhetorical shenanigans — usually through the presentation of raw numbers, the bigger the better, often devoid of context.

Take Canada, where economic headwinds have made the current government’s record a matter of some dispute.

Last October, then-Finance minister Jim Flaherty boasted of “more than 1 million jobs created since the depth of the global recession.” That one phrase neatly encapsulates the dangers of letting political parties choose which indicators to use in a debate about the economy.

To start, the statement uses a period that will produce the biggest number of jobs, does not say what that period was, ignores how many were lost in the prior period, and fails to distinguish between full-time, part-time and contract employment. Then there is the attempt to dazzle with big numbers: Is a million a lot? How many jobs does the country usually generate over a similar period?

Huffington Post – Eve Adams, Dimitri Soudas Snared In Tory Riding Association Infighting Controversy

“We’re running fair and open nominations,” said Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann.

But in an email to Conservative headquarters, longtime party organizer Wally Butts expressed frustration with the situation in Oakville North – Burlington.

“When this situation originally arose, it was made clear to me that Dimitri would not be involved, and Eve was to be treated just like any other candidate seeking nomination as a candidate,” Butts wrote on Mar. 20.

“I am in a totally untenable situation in this matter as Dimitri is my ultimate boss. Can you please take action in this matter to straighten out this worsening mess?”

Butts, who was close to late national campaign director Doug Finley and his wife, cabinet minister Diane Finley, was let go shortly thereafter.

The Star – PM demanded resignation of Dimitri Soudas, sources say

(where does he find these guys??)

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally demanded the resignation of Dimitri Soudas as executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada on Sunday after he was informed that Soudas had used party resources to boost his fiancée’s bid to win a contested nomination race, the Star has learned.

In addition to personally getting involved in the race for the new riding of Oakville North—Burlington, Soudas was found to have asked his executive assistant, Crystal Kapteyn, to make calls into the riding to help solicit potential supporters for his fiancée, MP Eve Adams — all in violation of a condition in Soudas’s written employment contract as one of the party’s top strategists, sources say.

Canadianbusiness.com – One thing Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper agree on: Mike Moffatt

Jim Flaherty and Ronald Reagan agree too: economic growth helps balance budgets

When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made comments about the budget being able to balance itself if economic growth were higher, I paid little attention, as Canada’s budget deficit is relatively small and I have heard many others make this claim.

As such, I was surprised to see these comments form the basis of a recent Conservative Party TV commercial. In my view, it is an unusual point of criticism, as the idea that a government’s budgetary balance depends on economic growth is widely known by economists, and politicians such as Jim Flaherty, Ronald Reagan and even Steven Harper routinely point out how economic growth is crucial to balancing a government’s budget…..

In the current Canadian context, Justin Trudeau’s statement was reasonable to the point of being obvious. I am puzzled why his comments have received so much attention.”

UNFAIR ELECTIONS ACT

(There were too many articles on this topic to include them all. Everyone is paying attention except the Harper Government.)

The Star – Elections commissioner urges changes to electoral reform bill

OTTAWA—The man in charge of investigating offences under Canada’s elections laws is urging the Conservatives to abandon key parts of their electoral reform bill and strengthen others.

Testifying before a House of Commons committee Tuesday, elections commissioner Yves Côté said the push to remove his office from Elections Canada is not “a step in the right direction.”

“In placing the commissioner within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Bill C-23 would bring under the same roof two functions that are normally, and for good reasons, kept separate,” Côté told the committee.

“It also raises concerns with respect to at least the perceived independence of the commissioner from the government of the day.”

The Star – QP Thursday: Neufeld on Neufeld

Just a couple of hours before question period on Thursday, the procedure and house affairs committee had the chance to question a witness who’s become famous in these parts – a fellow who penned a report that minister for democratic reform Pierre Poilievre continues to cite as reason for getting rid of the vouching system for voting in the government’s Fair Elections Act.

It was only to be expected that Harry Neufeld would be a star in QP after what he said.

Neufeld, a former B.C. chief electoral officer, isn’t happy with what he says is a selective reading of his compliance review report on the 2011 election, published in March of last year.

The democratic reform minister is holding fast, however, and not quite heeding Neufeld’s concerns.

Huffington Post – Bill C-23, Fair Elections Act, Criticized By Professor Paul Thomas

“This should not happen in Canada, which has one of the strongest reputations in the world for staging fair and free elections under the supervision of Elections Canada, the oldest independent and impartial national election body among established democracies,” Thomas says, according to speaking notes shared with The Huffington Post Canada.

The government’s election law is under review by a committee with a majority of Conservative MPs. The bill has been attacked by every opposition party, and all of the expert testimony so far has been critical of the Tories’ proposal. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, however, says his bill is “excellent.

The Hill Times – Ending vouching, voter ID cards could disenfranchise 520,000 in next election, says elections expert Neufeld

The government came under its most severe criticism yet Thursday over controversial plans to amend federal election law, with a former chief electoral officer for British Columbia accusing the Conservatives of attempting to ‘tilt the playing field’ in their favour.

THE CONS ARE EVEN ON EACH OTHERS’ ENEMIES LISTS!

CBC News – Rob Anders’ campaign making impersonating calls, claims competitor Ron Liepert

Ron Liepert, who is seeking a federal Conservative nomination in Calgary, alleges his competitor is making impersonating phone calls.

The former provincial Progressive Conservative MLA says Rob Anders’ campaign is calling constituents and saying the calls are from Liepert’s campaign.

Liepert claims he has heard complaints from constituents, some of whom called back the number and were connected with Anders’ campaign office.

“They received calls Friday night, both identifying themselves as the Conservative Party of Canada and the Ron Liepert campaign, asking how they were going to vote on the nomination.”

VETERANS AND WIDOWS – ON HARPER”S ENEMIES LIST?

(he’s not their friend that’s for sure)

 Political Knocks – A Grieving Military Widow’s Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Of the 40 short years Jacques lived, 23 years of those precious years were in service to Canada. Don’t you think the MND can offer me a few short moments of one hour of one day so I can understand and come to terms with what happened almost nine years ago?

BUT THERE’S TIME AND MONEY FOR THIS… 

Global News – Is this meal worth $150? Government spent more than $32,000 on Israel plane food

OTTAWA – The defence department spent more than $32,000 on kosher food to feed the government’s delegation when it flew to Israel in January, documents show.

Some 110 people accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper on two flights on the government plane from Ottawa to Germany, and from Germany to Tel Aviv.

That number includes journalists, stakeholders such as rabbis and Jewish associations, and 31 Parliamentarians, such as Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Conservative MP Mark Adler.

The cost of the meals totalled $32,333 – almost $150 per meal, per person, according to documents obtained under Access to Information

BACK IN COURT

Globe and Mail - Ottawa to appeal ruling that gives medical marijuana growers reprieve

The federal government will contest an injunction that allows people to continue to grow medical marijuana while a full legal challenge plays out in the courts.

It is the latest salvo in a series of legal actions over how the government administers its medical pot program.

Earlier this month, Federal Court Judge Michael Manson ruled that patients currently licensed to grow their own marijuana would be permitted to produce the drug even after new regulations banning the practice take effect Tuesday.

The judge granted an application from medical marijuana patients seeking a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo until their constitutional challenge of the new system could be heard.

The government said Monday it will ask the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the injunction.

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Harper Watch, March 14 to March 24, 2014


HCHIPS IS LAUNCHED!

A new initiative has been launched! www.hchips.ca lists Harper’s crimes as he chips away at Democracy. It also gives you the opportunity to sign up to print your own HChips cards to distribute as far and wide as you can, to help inform Canadians about the many ways in which Harper is changing this country for the worse. Every month, new Chips will be added and tagged for easy reference.  Check it out and spread the word!

COMMENTARY

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Under Jim Flaherty, budgets ceased to mean much of anything
It is hard to assess Jim Flaherty’s record as Finance minister apart from that of the prime minister he served. Nothing gets done, in this government more than any other, without the prime minister’s approval.
What can be said is that during Flaherty’s term at Finance the distinction became even harder to draw: in a government that politicizes everything, Finance has led the way. Under Flaherty, not only did budgets cease to be budgets — now they are Economic Action Plans — but they ceased to mean much of anything.

Maclean’s – Scott Feschuk: You think Stephen Harper likes this whole power thing?
Everything the Prime Minister does, he does for you. Especially winning elections.The Conservative party has launched a new fundraising campaign as part of a strategy to win next year’s federal election. Let’s read between the lines of the online appeal from its executive director, Dimitri Soudas.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Harper and the ‘Merchant of Venom’
Before Finkelstein, the word “liberal” was a descriptor with many positive connotations, including tolerance and even enlightenment. After him, “liberal” became the ultimate political pejorative. It was used to brand and dismiss progressives as left-wing loons with dubious values and a bad habit of raising taxes and spending the numbers off the credit card. Never mind that the truth was the exact opposite — Clinton/Bush-wise, that is. But perception, not reality, is what matters.

Liberal MP Wayne Easter’s website – Rant: THE VIEW FROM HERE…. Apparently they are short a soothsayer or two in the Prime Minister’s Office , for nobody seems to have warned Emperor Stevius Harperus about the week he was about to endure. As things turned out , it was one of those weeks that the man who would be the unfettered Emperor of us all , would just as soon forget , with one political disaster after another piling up , one upon the other. It began with the sudden and unexpected resignation of Finance Minister James Flaherty , and the interpretation of some pundits that this political rodent was deserting the good Conservative ship because he was tired of arguing with the Bossman.

HARPER HAS NO SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH VETERANS

CBC News – Veterans don’t have social contract, Ottawa says in lawsuit response
(Out of all the despicable things Harper has done, this, to me is one of the most heinous)
The federal government is arguing it does not have a social contract with veterans in response to a class-action suit brought by veterans upset with the compensation arrangement offered to wounded soldiers under the New Veterans Charter.

Cost of ‘Canada 150′ commemorations comes out of military operations budget
(Because Lord knows, our veterans have no use for more funding)
The cost of six years of military commemorations surrounding Canada’s 150th birthday is to come out of existing Canadian Forces operational budgets. Almost 300 pages of documents obtained by the Liberal party under the Access to Information Act detail something called “Operation Distinction” — a campaign mandated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that will include dozens of events through to the year 2020….. A January 2013 “Planning Directive” from Gen. Tom Lawson, the chief of defence staff, makes it clear the mission comes straight from the top, with input from the Privy Council Office (PCO) that serves the prime minister and cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the PM himself.

CBC News – 2 soldiers who served in Afghanistan found dead
(No words)
Just as the last Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan returned home today, news emerged that two soldiers took their own lives.
Cpl. Alain Lacasse, 43, was found dead in his home Monday afternoon in Valcartier, Que.
Police said that because Lacasse’s death was a suicide, they are not giving out any details about what took place.
Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) also confirmed that another soldier in Ontario, Master Cpl. Tyson Washburn, was found dead over the weekend.
Washburn, who was from The 1st Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment in Pembroke, Ont. died on Saturday, March 15.
Officials are not releasing any details, but CBC News has learned that Washburn appears to have taken his own life.

HARPER LOSES IN COURT AGAIN

The Star – Supreme Court of Canada rejects Marc Nadon
OTTAWA—As Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the air en route to promote democracy in Ukraine, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a lesson of its own: this is what Canadian constitutional democracy looks like.
The Supreme Court of Canada issued a stinging rejection of Harper’s appointment of Justice Marc Nadon for a Quebec seat on the top bench, saying it was an unconstitutional change to the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada, and required the unanimous approval of Parliament and the provinces.

The Globe and Mail - The Harper government deserves the Supreme Court’s rebuke
The Harper government figured it would teach the Supreme Court justices a lesson by appointing Marc Nadon to their midst. Instead, the justices taught the Harper government a bunch of lessons.
Among the lessons: Don’t play politics with the judiciary. Don’t play fast and loose with the law. Pick the best-qualified, not the average. Understand the Constitution.

Huffington Post – Court Ruling Won’t Sway Health Canada On ‘Narcotic’ Marijuana
Health Canada isn’t backing down after a federal court ruled against the government’s efforts to ban medical marijuana users from growing their own pot.
In the wake of Friday’s court decision, the federal department which runs the medical pot program said it will “review the ruling and consider its options,” but indicated it wants to maintain its current approach.

FLAHERTY JUMPS SHIP

iPolitics – Jim Flaherty’s legacy of failure
An intrusive, meddling prime minister made Mr. Flaherty’s job very difficult. With greater policy independence and responsibility, Mr. Flaherty’s legacy would have been much stronger — as would the record of the Harper government. So Mr. Flaherty’s policy legacy does not put him in the same league as Mr. Wilson and Mr. Martin.

The Globe and Mail - Flaherty’s legacy? Ideological, reckless and just plain lucky
Where does a prime minister end and a finance minister begin? There is little sunshine between these two positions in any administration, all the more so with the Stephen Harper administration. Nobody is confused about who is boss. So are we judging Mr. Flaherty’s legacy, or Mr. Harper’s?

Maclean’s – 10 charts that sum up the Flaherty years
Jim Flaherty was one of the longest serving federal finance ministers in Canadian history. He also oversaw the public purse during the most volatile economic period in memory.Here are 10 charts that capture the dramatic changes that have occurred since Flaherty was first appointed in 2006.

Press Progress – What’s with all this praise for Jim Flaherty’s record? 
If you listen to the way some pundits are describing Jim Flaherty’s long tenure as Finance Minister – how he used his “steady hand” to “steer Canada through some very challenging times” – you can be forgiven if you thought he paddled a canoe through a hurricane rather than drive a car into a ditch.

iPolitics – The robocalls cloud still hangs over Joe Oliver’s riding
Our new finance minister, Joe Oliver, still has a hurdle to clear. Oliver’s riding of Eglinton-Lawrence is among those being probed by Elections Canada in an investigation of automated robocalls and other alleged illicit activities in the 2011 election campaign. That investigation is scheduled to wind up shortly, with a report to follow soon after.

SKIPPY GETS HIS ORDERS – FOR HIS EYES ONLY

The Star –  Conservatives keep electoral reform documents secret
OTTAWA—The Conservative government is keeping secret documents prepared for Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre as he drafted the controversial electoral reform bill.
In an unusual move, the Privy Council Office has refused to release all but three pages of a 199-page transition binder prepared for Poilievre when he assumed his cabinet post in July 2013.

CBC News - Election bill sends ‘very poor message’ to budding democracies
Reynolds said democracy advisers face a challenge in trying to persuade new governments to set up independent, autonomous election authorities.
“When a democratic, established democracy in the west like Canada seems to be curtailing its own ability to do that, it sends a very poor message to new countries in the Arab world, in Africa, in Asia, who are attempting to move from authoritarianism to democracy,” he said.

WHERE OUR MONEY GOES

The Star – Star investigation: Millions in taxpayer-funded consulting work kept secret
A Star investigation has found 90 per cent of the $2.4 billion paid out in the past decade comes with no description of the work done — and more than a dozen departments refuse to provide details when pressed.

National Post – Annual cost for Harper’s RCMP security detail has doubled to $19.6 million since he became PM in 2006
RCMP numbers, obtained by the Citizen under access to information legislation, show the annual operating budget of the Prime Minister Protection Detail (PMPD) has increased 122% between 2006 and 2014 — to almost $20 million annually.

PROMISES: CHECK. ANNOUNCEMENTS: CHECK. ACTION: chirp, chirp

CTV News: Shockingly low number of Syrian refugees in Canada despite government’s pledge
“I believe what they offered at the time was because of political pressure,” says Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, to Kevin Newman Live. Rico is from El Salvador and was a refugee when she came to Canada in 1990. She now works to help people through the process. Part of that political pressure was because other countries were accepting refugees. “They should increase the number of refugees and have a special program.”

CAN THE CONS EVER GET ANYTHING RIGHT?

Huffington Post – Lawyer Rocco Galati Wonders Why He Had To Clean Up Harper’s ‘Mess’
“I just regret the fact the government can make a subversive mess of our Constitution and it’s got to be private citizens like me — at my own expense, this has cost me a lot of money, my own time, energy and money; I’m not getting any of that back — to clean up what?” said Galati.
“To clean up the mess of the subversive government that doesn’t want to respect the Constitution. Why should a private citizen have to do that, quite frankly?
“If I hadn’t brought the challenge, Justice Nadon would be deciding cases as we speak.”

The Star - Wynne criticizes Harper over lack of leadership on pensions
Repeating her warnings retirees will face a “pension income crisis” as company pensions dwindle or shrink, the premier singled out Stephen Harper for resisting an “obvious” solution by expanding the Canada Pension Plan.
“Not so long ago it seemed that even the recently retired (federal finance minister) Jim Flaherty agreed,” Wynne said in a speech prepared for the Liberal party’s annual Heritage Dinner.
“But Stephen Harper has an ideological aversion to the CPP, so there is no federal leadership in this area.”

CWB Alliance – Grain companies profiting from marketing chaos
The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance (CWBA) has released a one page summary exposing how the private grain trade and the Harper government are misleading the public on who is responsible for the chaos at Canada’s grain ports. “We followed the money” explained Kyle Korneychuk, spokesperson for the CWBA, a prairie wide farm group.  “Our calculations demonstrate the grain companies have taken over $1.6 billion in excess profits from wheat alone so far this crop year.”

Toronto Star – Health Canada charging huge markup on pot
(The Harper government is making a killing overcharging for medical marijuana.  Here comes another law suit.)
The federal government charges patients 15 times more for certified medical marijuana than it pays to buy the weed in bulk from its official supplier, newly released documents show. Critics say it’s unconscionable to charge that high a markup to some of the country’s sickest citizens, who have little income and are often cut off from their medical marijuana supply when they can’t pay their government dope bills…. Victoria-based Vancouver Island Compassion Society is planning a constitutional challenge to the federal medical cannabis program, set to be heard in the British Columbia Supreme Court May 9-18.

CUTTING STAFF, NOT RISKS

The Star – Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts
Albert Einstein’s well-known definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is unsettlingly relevant to a new round of federal government cuts. The latest slashing of Environment Canada, which by 2016 will have half the budget it had in 2007, calls to mind a series of deep cuts to environmental protections in Ontario in the late 1990s. Some of the players are even the same, so they cannot reasonably claim to be ignorant of the tragic consequences.

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Harper Watch, March 6 to March 13, 2014


OPINION, COMMENTARY

National Post – Don’t undermine Elections Canada

A group of (160) professors explains why the government’s proposed changes to our election laws are a threat to Canada’s democratic traditions

Huffington Post Blog – Charlie Angus: “We Were Just Children Undergoing Torture…Nothing Has Changed”

Imagine what would happen if the Crown suppressed thousands of pages of police evidence from an important trial? It wouldn’t take a legal expert to tell you there would be an immediate mistrial — especially if the Crown also prepared a false evidence sheet that mislead the judges. And yet, this was done to the survivors of St. Anne’s Residential School. Despite a damning ruling against this abuse of process in Ontario Superior Court, nothing has been done to remediate this situation.

Justice Minister Peter Mackay claims to be the champion for victim’s rights has been silent. But then it was his department and officials who created the false evidence trail that resulted in covering up the abuse at St. Anne’s Residential School.

National Post – John McKay: The Tories’ real economic record

I must say I admire my colleague Maxime Bernier’s chutzpah in his recent article in the National Post.

Putting aside my admiration, however, I would remind Minister Bernier that throwing stones in glass houses is not usually the best idea.

The last 10 years of the Liberal Chretien-Martin government delivered 10 surplus budgets in a row. The Conservative Harper-Flaherty combination has delivered eight deficits in a row. The Liberal government paid down debt. The Conservatives have raised it. Minister Bernier is a member of that government.

The Harper government has been one of the most profligate spenders in Canadian history, ramping up spending by 30% since 2006, adding upwards of $160-billion to the national debt, and beggaring Canadians by an additional $5,000 each.

National Post – Barbara Kay: Ottawa’s curious decision to cut funding to successful sex offender program

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) announced Wednesday that it is cutting its very modest annual funding ($650,000) for CoSA – Circles of Support and Accountability. CoSA is a group of mostly volunteers, 700 across Canada, that takes responsibility for released sex offenders. This is a puzzling decision, as a 2007 study found that participation by sex offenders in CoSA, an option about 10% of them take advantage of, resulted in an 83% reduction in reoffending as compared to those offenders who were not in the program.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: It’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to

On February 6, Conservative MP Brad Butt was only doing his job — parroting the party line in the House of Commons like a well-rehearsed witness at a Stalin-era show trial. All in a day’s work for that lost tribe of un-elevated Tories. They’re the ones even further back in the Commons seating plan than the bobble-head brigade.

Butt’s subject was the Fair Elections Act, a piece of legislation designed to suppress voting, legalize more money for the Conservatives and get even with Elections Canada for depleting the Harper government’s front bench over elections law infractions. The government also has an online description of Bill C-23 for those who prefer fiction.

Huffington Post – Rick Mercer Eviscerates ‘Lying’ Tory MP (VIDEO)

“All Brad had to do was stand up and like a sulking adolescent say, ‘I did not mean to mislead the House.’ Ironically, he said this in the House, another lie in the House,” Mercer said in his rant Tuesday night.

Huffington Post Blog – Chris Alexander, I’m Sorry I Treated an Abused Refugee in My Hospital

Dear Minister Alexander,

I have a confession: Two weeks ago, I treated a refugee claimant. At the time I did not feel I had done anything wrong — in fact I felt good about the care I provided. After hearing your recent interviews, however, I can’t help but feel physically ill about the catastrophe I have created.

I had no idea that providing even basic health care to refugee claimants “is irresponsible as it makes Canada… a magnet for bogus asylum seekers” as you explained.

iPolitics – We have a right to ask questions. Will we fight for it?

Yes, you read that right. This nation’s parliamentary press corps actually had to hold a vote to affirm the right to ask questions of the politicians they cover at staged PR events. That should tell you a lot about the depth of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s loathing for the fourth estate.

This is an old, depressing story. Despite having been in office for a good many years now, Harper and his cabinet acolytes remain convinced that enemies lurk everywhere in Ottawa — in the press especially, although they also view the civil service with deep suspicion.

FIRST NATIONS WOMEN SWEPT UNDER THE HARPER RUG

The Star – Conservatives reject inquiry for murdered, missing aboriginal women

OTTAWA—The federal Conservatives rejected appeals for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women Friday, drawing the ire of aboriginal groups and opposition critics.

A parliamentary report tabled Friday afternoon made 16 recommendations intended to address the violence faced by aboriginal women in Canada, but did not suggest the government set up an independent public inquiry — something that aboriginal groups and others have long called for.

“We continue to be, I find, treated as second-class citizens. You know, an aboriginal woman could be disposed of and that’s it, that’s all,” Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said Friday.

“There’s no new action, just a continuation of what’s in place . . . . So what’s that going to change, really?”

The Star – Parliament fails aboriginal women: Goar

But Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, who proposed the parliamentary investigation into the epidemic of deaths of aboriginal women, hoped that this time, the government would rise above partisanship. The homicide rate for aboriginal women was shockingly high. There was clear evidence the RCMP and local police turned a blind eye when First Nations, Inuit and Métis women went missing. The anguish of their families was heart-rending.

Her motion won unanimous consent. The testimony of the witnesses — police, statisticians, family service workers, child protection workers and the sisters, parents and friends of the victims — was compelling. The committee clerk and the parliamentary researchers worked diligently.

The government-led rewrite was a crushing disappointment.

West Coast Native News – Indian Affairs won’t support special needs of Down Syndrome twins

There is currently no Indian Act provision for special education for First Nation children on-reserve, services available to all children attending provincial schools. Specialists are often unavailable or very expensive for First Nation communities, but routinely provided by school boards to provincial schools.

The federal government is currently facing a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to respond to claims that it funds on-reserve child welfare agencies an average 22 per cent less than provincial Children’s Aid Societies.

UNFAIR ELECTIONS ACT: MORE AND MORE SICKENING

Canada.com – The closer one reads the elections bill, the worse it looks

No wonder the Tories were so nervous. The government had been noticeably skittish about what Marc Mayrand would say before the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee Thursday: not only had it kept the chief electoral officer largely out of the loop in the months before it introduced its landmark Fair Elections Act, but there was doubt whether he would even be allowed to testify about it afterwards. A promise to that effect had been made to the NDP’s David Christopherson the night before to persuade him to end his filibuster of the act in committee. Yet on the day Mayrand’s testimony was interrupted by the calling of not one but two votes in the Commons just as he was scheduled to speak.

Ottawa Citizen – Author of report touted by Poilievre contradicts minister on voter fraud

“We are going to keep quoting Mr. Neufeld’s report because it contains the facts that obviously support our position that people should have ID when they show up to vote,” the minister for democratic reform told the House of Commons on Friday.

He accused opposition MPs of ignoring the “hard facts” contained in last year’s report by Neufeld, a former chief electoral officer for British Columbia who was commissioned by Elections Canada to review the problem of non-compliance with the rules for casting ballots in the 2011 election.

However, Neufeld suggested it’s Poilievre who’s ignoring the facts.

Canada.com – Elections Canada head delivers urgent warning about elections act

“My biggest concern is that at the end of the day, Canadians will be denied the right to vote”

The head of Elections Canada delivered a harsh and detailed critique of the Conservatives’ new elections act at a parliamentary committee on Thursday, but the Tories swiftly signalled that they are unlikely to make many of the changes he proposed.

Minutes after Marc Mayrand finished his testimony, Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform, rose in the House of Commons and repeatedly contradicted his testimony.

Mayrand began by telling MPs that although the act introduces some positive changes it “also includes measures that, in my opinion, undermine the bill’s stated purpose and will not serve Canadians well.”

The Hill Times – Feds didn’t like Elections Canada’s 2008 election campaign to ‘vote, shape your world’

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government has disclosed the type of Elections Canada advertising campaign the Conservatives want to prohibit under controversial legislation to radically amend federal election law—a 25-second video that contrasts urban pollution and emissions to an evergreen forest as it urges youth to “vote, shape your world.”

The 2008 Elections Canada ad begins with a sketched portrayal of a ballot being cast, then a moving sketch portrayal of a lively rock concert crowd and electronic music, as the images change to include a recycle symbol, with a backdrop of freeways, industry chimney emitters, and then a quiet forest. The brief clip ends with the printed words ‘Vote. Shape your world.’

HARPER LETS LYING “BUTTS” LIE

CBC News – Tories kill bid to investigate Brad Butt voter fraud claim

After a rancorous daylong debate, Conservative MPs resoundingly rejected an opposition bid to have a House committee look into their MP’s claim — now retracted — that he saw voter information cards stolen to be misused to commit fraud.

Earlier in the day, the government invoked closure, a measure that’s rarely used, to force a time limit on debate about whether the procedure and House affairs committee should study whether Conservative MP Brad Butt breached MPs’ parliamentary privilege.

The Globe and Mail – DFO ‘fudging the numbers,’ court finds; bars commercial fishery off Vancouver Island

An unprecedented court injunction has barred the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from opening a commercial fishery off Vancouver Island after a judge concluded DFO was “fudging the numbers” and that the federal minister declared it open against her own bureaucrats’ advice.

VETERANS: HARPER LIKES THEM BETTER DEAD THAN ALIVE

The Globe and Mail: Placement of ‘Mother Canada’ statue has Cape Bretoners on war footing

(Gotta love this guy! “If they put it down at Green Cove,” he says, laughing, “all you’re going to see is her arse.” )

A massive monument to honour war dead, featuring a 10-storey-high statue called “Mother Canada,” is igniting a fierce battle among Cape Bretoners living near and along the ruggedly beautiful Cabot Trail on the island’s east coast.

From the village of Baddeck to the fishing community of Ingonish, passions are running high as residents debate a plan by a Toronto businessman and Parks Canada to build the “Never Forgotten National Memorial” at Green Cove, one of the most picturesque sites in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The memorial, featuring the statue and parking for about 300 vehicles, is the brainchild of Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani. It has the backing of the Harper Tories, who have made a mission of embracing patriotic symbols, especially military ones.

“The thing is with this war memorial – it’s starting a war,” says Aaron Schneider, a retired engineer who has lived on his old highlands farm near Ingonish since 1980. “It’s being very divisive of a community, creating a lot of rancour and anger.”

Huffington Post – Royal Canadian Legion To Call On Harper Government To Take Better Care Of Veterans

OTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Legion is set to call on the Harper government to take better care of wounded veterans and their families.

Representatives from the legion are scheduled to appear today before a parliamentary committee.

One of their requests is for more frequent reviews of the New Veterans Charter, marquee legislation championed by the Harper government since it was enacted in 2006.

The legion wants to see mandatory reviews of the charter every two years. The government took five years to overhaul the charter after veterans criticized it as being less generous than the previous system of compensating veterans under the Pension Act.

GRAIN TAKES THE SLOW TRAIN

Press Progress – Harper hypocrisy: “free market” obsession goes against the grain

Why won’t the Conservatives in Ottawa do anything to help Prairie farmers get their grain on trains and — wait for it — stave off a national Cheerios shortage? Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says that “the railways have arbitrarily decided that they’re not going to run cars that direction… They are a service industry that does not care much about service.” But businesses should be left alone to run their own affairs, says Ritz. That’s why he’s “loath to regulate” the rail companies.

The Star Phoenix – Tory plan: Too little, too late

While the Harper government wants to look like it’s doing something to get grain moving, what it’s really doing is making the railways do what they’ve already promised to do and slap them on the wrist if they don’t.

Moreover, Ritz’s promise of legislation is simply an admission of the government’s failure to adequately regulate the grain transportation system after ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s role in getting wheat and barley to export markets in 2012.

THE EPITOME(S) OF HARPOCRISY

Ottawa Citizen – Vic Toews appointment seems to set new standard for blatant patronage

In 2004, Conservative justice critic Vic Toews criticized then Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler for appointing his former chief of staff, Yves de Montigny, to the federal court.

Toews acknowledged that de Montigny was qualified, reporter Janice Tibbetts wrote, but said it looked bad all the same.

“It’s just one more illustration of how who you know gets you on the bench,” Toews said.

The Toews appointment — less than a year from cabinet table to the bench — seems to set a new standard for blatant patronage, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has watched Harper appoint senators.

Huffington Post – Elizabeth May’s Call For Audit Into MP Expenses Rejected By Tories

OTTAWA — Conservative MPs have rejected a call to have Canada’s auditor general take a good look at their expenses — or those of the prime minister and his cabinet.

“NO!” was the word emanating from the Tory benches when MPs were asked by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on Tuesday to give their unanimous consent to allow Michael Ferguson and his team to review their books.

The dismissal came entirely from Conservative MPs, May said.

Ottawa Citizen – Bill that aims to uncover public servants’ political history has ‘feel of a witch hunt’

OTTAWA – The union representing lawyers working for Canada’s parliamentary watchdogs say a Conservative MP’s bill to compel employees in those agencies to disclose their past political activities will politicize the public service and risks “witch hunts” for partisan bureaucrats.

Lisa Blais, president of the Association of Justice Counsel, said the union has nearly 40 members working for the agents of Parliament who are targeted by Conservative MP Mark Adler’s private member’s bill. The bill would force employees to make a public declaration of their political activities going back a decade. If passed, the legislation would extend to current employees to disclose their political pasts.

Global News – EI helpline: Sorry they can’t come to the phone right now

OTTAWA – “Our call volume is high and we are unable to transfer your call” – that’s the message a growing number of Canadians are getting from the government when they ring phone centres looking for help with Employment Insurance.

Thirty per cent of callers to Service Canada’s EI help centres received that message last year, according to government numbers filed with the House of Commons in January.

That’s compared to just eight per cent of calls sidelined by high-volume messages back in 2006, even though the number of calls hasn’t changed.

Huffington Post – Canadian Labour Congress Says Statistics Canada Needs To Change How It Reports Unemployment

OTTAWA – The Canadian Labour Congress is asking Statistics Canada to change the way it reports on unemployment, saying a more fulsome analysis of the data it collects would paint a very different picture of the country’s labour market.

The labour group is presenting its findings to the Commons finance committee later Thursday, with officials of the national statistical agency also present and giving testimony.

The CLC is making its position known a day before the agency issues its latest labour market findings on Friday, which many economists say will show about 15,000 jobs were created in February, with the unemployment rate hovering at about seven per cent.

And that’s the problem, says the CLC.

Press Progress – “Our Environment Division was eliminated and all expertise has long since left”

Canada’s department of foreign affairs admits it no longer has any in-house expertise on multilateral chemicals conventions to which Canada is a signatory.

SPYING BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL SPYING

Huffington Post – Immunity For Telecoms Targeted In Campaign Against Bill C-13

Telecom companies would be granted immunity for handing over information on their customers without a warrant under a law meant to target cyberbullying, civil liberties groups say.

OpenMedia is leading a coalition of organizations that are lining up against Bill C-13, which the Harper government tabled last fall in response to a series of high-profile cyberbullying cases.

Digital law experts and civil liberties groups say the law goes far beyond targeting online bullying, and essentially revives many of the elements of a controversial earlier online spying bill.

TAX DOLLARS WASTING AWAY

Global News – Diamond Jubilee program costs $8.1M, nearly $660K over budget: documents

OTTAWA — The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal program, meant to recognize Canadians for their contributions to the country, cost taxpayers $8.1 million —more than half a million over budget, newly-released documents obtained by Global News show.

“Although well-meaning by the governor general, I think it’s a bit much,” said Peter Emon, mayor of Greater Madawaska, Ont., in line to receive two jubilee medals just for being an elected official.

Emon returned his, saying it held little meaning since so many were handed out. He didn’t feel the need to be counted among pop star Justin Bieber, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Conservative party organizer Jenni Byrne.

Canada.com – How Stephen Harper’s use of social media blurs the lines, online

OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office and the federal Conservative party appear to be blurring the lines between official government business and partisan work in their online activities, as they look to identify new supporters the party can tap for financial contributions.

TOUGH ON CRIME AND CRIME PREVENTION

Winnipeg Free Press – Sex-offender program victim of funding cuts: Project proven to prevent reoffending

The program has been supported by the federal government since 1994 when it began in Ontario. A community of concerned Canadians responded to the release of Charlie Taylor, a notorious child-sex offender. Taylor was surrounded by a group of volunteers committed to supporting him while holding him accountable for his actions. Taylor died 12 years after his release with no more victims, Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) said in a news release.

The program has become a model copied in the U.S., United Kingdom and several other European Union countries.

TOUGH LUCK FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION

The Star – Environment Canada braces for cuts to climate programs

Staffing levels at the climate change division are expected to see a sharper drop to 338 FTEs in 2016-17 from 699. The projections are based on Environment Canada’s estimates for how much it will pay out in salaries, divided by the average salary at the department.

“Knowing what the situation is with greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, one would think they got the numbers backwards. And that we would be ramping up rather than ramping down,” said Halifax MP Megan Leslie, the opposition New Democrats’ environment critic, on Tuesday.

“That is a shocking decrease, it really is.”

ACCOUNTABILITY NEVERMORE

The Star – Ottawa imposes life-long gag order on bureaucrats, lawyers

Those employees, mostly Department of Justice lawyers and senior bureaucrats at the Privy Council Office, could face as much as 14 years in prison for disclosing “special operational information” without authorization.

Editorial: Gagging officials for life in the name of secrecy is overkill

But while the government maintains the secrecy is necessary to maintain Canada’s most “operationally sensitive” information, critics say it’s designed to discourage whistleblowing and hamper the public debate now swirling around modern state espionage.

 

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Harper Watch, February 26 to March 5, 2014


COMMENTARY

Canada.com – Andrew Coyne: The Manning Networking conference is a gathering of the Conservative party in exile

OTTAWA —  So this is what a Conservative convention looks like. After that bizarre lockdown in Calgary last fall — reporters harassed and penned in at every turn, the prime minister’s defiantly empty speech, the air heavy with self-congratulation and paranoia — the annual Manning Networking conference exudes an altogether different spirit: thoughtful, open, introspective … and conservative.

Of course, the Manning Centre is avowedly non-partisan: It’s supposed to be conservative, not Conservative. But then, the Conservative party is supposed to be conservative. If the Manning conference has gotten more overtly partisan over the years, it may be because the party has gotten less overtly anything, other than unpleasant. Or rather, the leadership has. But looking at the contrast between this ostensibly non-partisan convention and its partisan predecessor, the thought occurs: This is the real Conservative convention. It is a gathering, if you like, of the Conservative party in exile.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Conservatives’ big bang is fast approaching

It is a slow process, but can reach runaway elevator speed if the cable snaps. Harper is at the stage where it is beginning to fray.

Knowingly or unknowingly, the prime minister has presided over two major scandals which are both far from over — Robocalls and the Wright/Duffy Affair — and one in which the party was caught cheating, the In-and-Out scandal. His Conservative values are now purely rhetorical.

Guelph Mercury – Frank Valeriote on the Fair Elections Act

The cause of fair elections is one close to my heart, particularly since Guelph became ground zero for a concerted and malicious campaign to mislead non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling locations on May 2, 2011.

The subsequent investigation demonstrated where we lack the ability to effectively pursue electoral fraudsters – yet this government is more interested in punishing Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) for some imagined anti-Conservative transgression. How else could they explain that our top election official was not consulted on legislation that makes significant changes to how we conduct our elections?

The Star – Justin Trudeau speaks, Jason Kenney hyperventilates: Mallick

(The photo truly is frightening)

Jason Kenney, posing plumply in Frobisher Bay on Twitter on the weekend in one of the most frightening photos I have ever seen of a pasty grown man encased in a fur onesie — worse, he seemed to have grown a moustache for the occasion — accused Trudeau of . . . something.

UNFAIR ELECTIONS

The Star – Canadians believe Tory election act settling scores: Delacourt

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe that the ruling Conservatives are settling political scores with their Fair Elections Act, a new poll has found.

And that skepticism about the motives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government only rises among people who say they’re “fairly” or “very” familiar with what’s in the bill, according to the poll, conducted by Angus Reid Global.

Huffington Post – Rick Mercer Rips Pierre Poilievre, Tories’ Fair Elections Act (VIDEO)

“I guarantee you, you get any member of the Conservative caucus alone in a room and you ask them who is the last man on Earth who should be put in charge of reforming democracy and they will tell you Pierre Poilievre,” Mercer said in a scathing rant Tuesday.

The Hill Times – Tories to benefit most under elections overhaul bill in next election cycle: experts

The governing Conservatives will benefit most in the 2015 election campaign from its elections overhaul bill because of a new exemption on fundraising and the get-out-the-vote campaign spending, increases to overall campaign spending limits, and the lack of changes to massive pre-writ spending, experts say.

The already blurring line between parties’ get-out-the-vote and get-out-the-donation drives will be further muddled with the Conservative’s Fair Elections Act, as parties with more donors and more money, particularly the Conservatives, will be able to spend more through a new exemption, experts said.

The Globe and Mail – Conservative MP retracted voter-fraud story after complaint to Elections Canada

(Mystery solved: Butt is called on his claim – NOT a attack of conscience!)

Mr. Butt gave no indication what prompted his retraction, but a complaint had been made to the Commissioner of Canada Elections – incidentally, a role the Fair Elections Act proposes to substantially overhaul by moving the role out of Elections Canada and under the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Stephen Best, the chief agent for the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, said he complained to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, about Mr. Butt’s claim and was told the case would be referred to the Commissioner of Elections.

Canada.com – Conservatives harvested emails from livestreams of Aga Khan events

The prime minister’s website was used to collect email addresses for the Conservative party from viewers who tuned in for web broadcasts of events with the Aga Khan last week.

The Aga Khan, hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community, spoke in Parliament on Thursday and at an invitation-only event at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Friday.

Both events were available for viewing online through the stephenharper.ca website, a Conservative party site, but only after web surfers were asked to enter their name and email address.

Parties use forms like that to create databases of potential supporters for follow up with customized pitches for fundraising and voter identification.

PETTY CASH?

Global News – Government earmarks emergency funding for ad campaign

OTTAWA — The Conservative government gave Public Safety permission to dip into a federal emergency fund to help finance a $4.5-million advertising campaign, accounting documents show.

Public Safety has yet to draw from the account, which has been used in the past for nuclear repair and First Nations reserves, but the money remains earmarked should the department need extra cash for its anti-cyberbullying ad campaign. They won’t say why they needed the emergency cash.

The Opposition says it points to a lack of financial management in government.

Huffington Post – Conservatives Defend Questionable Lunches For Political Staff

The costs, $67,789.48 over three years, for a weekly Wednesday lunch meeting with the PMO and ministers’ chiefs of staff, was first reported by The Huffington Post Canada Tuesday morning.

The vast majority of staffers who took advantage of the free lunch earn six-figure salaries. Chiefs of staff are paid up to $178,800, according to guidelines posted on the Treasury Board website.

JUST PETTY

National Post – John Ivison(!): Exclusion of opposition from Ukraine delegation shows a lack of statesmanship from the Harper government

All MPs represent Ukrainian constituents and the message that is being sent to the beleaguered citizens of Ukraine is that all Canadians support the re-emergence of democracy.

As Conservative MP Russ Hiebert said Wednesday in the take-note debate in the House of Commons: “We need to be there when they [democracies] are in crisis. We need to help them re-establish freedom, human rights and the rule of law.”

Unfortunately, the government sees this crisis as an opportunity to score domestic political points.

Huffington Post – Joe Clark Frustrated With Harper Foreign Policy, Keystone Delays

The book is deeply critical of what it describes as the Harper Tories’ “megaphone” approach to international affairs — in other words, plenty of loud grandstanding and not much constructive work on the ground.

He was equally critical when asked about the Keystone XL pipeline.

He said the government deserves some of the blame if the project is stalled. If the Harper government hadn’t spent a couple of years shouting at the environmental movement, he said, it might not have attracted such opposition.

Clark told the audience that the belligerence began with verbal attacks by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver after the Conservatives won a majority in 2011, and continues to this day with environmental groups having their tax status threatened.

Globe and Mail – Former Tory whip slams party’s decision to strip private member’s bill

The Conservatives’ gutting of one of their own MPs’ bills last year was “tragic” and went against parliamentary tradition, the government’s former whip and house leader says.

The comments came after the MP behind the private member’s bill, Brent Rathgeber, killed it altogether this week despite a handful of Conservatives voting with him – and against the government’s wishes – on an amendment.

“I really believe – and it was an unwritten rule when I was in those positions – you don’t amend a private member’s bill at committee without the support of the sponsor. To me, that’s sacrosanct. And to me, you look at what happened with Brent Rathgeber and his private member’s bill, I thought that was tragic, to be honest,” Mr. Hill told The Globe and Mail Friday, after speaking at the Manning Centre conservative conference in Ottawa.

LAW AND DISORDER

CBC News – Mentally ill inmates kept in ‘grossly inadequate’ conditions

Latimer said the federal government has developed a strategy to address mental health needs of prisoners, but has failed to implement it with the proper supports and professionals. And that could ultimately have dire consequences for public safety, she warned.

“The last thing we want as a society is someone to come out of prison with less mental health than when they went in,” she said. “I think we need to be very worried about this.”

Canada.com – Auditors asked about Mike Duffy involvement in audit day before senator refused help

OTTAWA — Auditors reviewing Mike Duffy’s expenses were asked what they would say about Duffy’s involvement in the audit one day before he officially told auditors he wouldn’t be providing them with any help, according to a letter from the auditing firm.

The Deloitte auditors wrote late last year that they were asked on March 25, 2013, about Duffy’s involvement and told a top Tory senator and top Senate officials that they would be able to complete their review of Duffy’s expenses with or without the senator’s involvement.

The Globe and Mail – Conservatives mum on Canadian journalist held in Cairo

The Conservative cabinet minister responsible for the safety of Canadians overseas is offering no explanation for her government’s refusal to demand the release of a Canadian journalist being held in an Egyptian prison.

Lynne Yelich, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular Services, spoke to journalists in a conference call from Geneva on Tuesday after spending two days in meetings with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

When asked why the government has not been pressing the Egyptians to free Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who has been held in Cairo since late December on terrorism charges, Ms. Yelich did not respond directly.

FLIP AND FLOP

Huffington Post – Stephen Harper’s Income Splitting Tune Shifts Again

OTTAWA – The Conservative caucus appears to have put some woolly socks on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cold feet on income splitting, convincing him to stick with a key campaign promise despite his finance minister’s public reservations.

After Harper suggested earlier this month that he might be having second thoughts, the message from the prime minister changed this week to one of again embracing the concept.

Huffington Post – Jason Kenney Links Income-Splitting To ‘Stable Families’

OTTAWA – Jason Kenney is vigorously backing the Conservative government’s contentious income-splitting promise, infusing the debate with a social conservative element Friday as he insisted the scheme will benefit “stable” Canadian families.

“All of the social research indicates that folks who come from stable families tend to do better in terms of their economic prospects, and income-splitting supports families who are investing in their kids,” the federal employment minister said.

Huffington Post, This Chart Pretty Much Says It All About Canada’s Income Inequality

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has been boasting about data showing that Canadians’ net worth boomed in recent years, arguing, in essence, that Canada isn’t facing the sorts of income inequality problems that others are facing. It’s a political gambit, of course, and it’s aimed at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s recent talk about income inequality. Last week, Kenney accused Trudeau of “making things up” when the Liberal leader asserted that Canada’s middle class is stuck in neutral. But is Trudeau really making things up? Not according to a new study of incomes from the University of British Columbia, which found that nearly all the gains since the 1980s have gone to the top 10 per cent of earners — and much of that went to the very top 0.01 per cent of earners.

Huffington Post – Canada’s Ukraine Response Smacks Of Empty Gestures, Say Retired Ambassadors

The Harper government’s response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis smacked of empty gestures from a country that has become increasingly marginalized on the world stage, two retired Canadian ambassadors charged Sunday. Those scathing reviews came from two of the county’s most distinguished ex-diplomats: Jeremy Kinsman, who has served as Canada’s senior envoy to Russia, Britain, Italy and the European Union, and Paul Heinbecker, the former ambassador to the United Nations and an adviser to past Conservative and Liberal prime ministers. They were highly critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision Saturday to temporarily withdraw Canada’s ambassador to Russia, and of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for not ruling out the expulsion of Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov, in a later televised interview.

Toronto Star – Conservatives losing support to Liberals, pollster warns

(When the Cons are losing the support of male voters between 45 and 64, you know that the end is near for them.)

….Turcotte’s polling also gave him a glimpse into the type of people deserting the Conservatives — the 16 per cent, he called it. For the most part, this 16 per cent is made up of male voters, between the ages of 45 and 64, university-educated and most likely to live in Ontario. “They are concerned with health care, lower taxes, aging population, more accountability and full disclosure of spending of public funds,” he said. “These are the people who at this point should be in the tent, should be supporting the Conservative party, but are not for some reason.”

Canadian Business – Why are some Canadian companies paying almost no tax?

(Interesting article, especially considering the source.)

How much income tax do you pay? Forty per cent? More? Lately the government has become obsessed with making everyone pay their fair share. It set up a snitch line for tax cheats just last month, with Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay announcing she would “aggressively” pursue those who aren’t paying every penny they owe. No more offshore tax shelters in the Cayman Islands or stuffing numbered Swiss bank accounts full of cash: the age of tax leniency is over. That is, if you’re a person. If you’re a corporation, it’s a different story.

CBC News – How one defence staffer stood up for Access to Information

Public affairs adviser told to refuse CBC News request for letter, but said ‘I won’t do it’

A lone civilian public affairs adviser for the Canadian army defied military officials last month and insisted on the public release of a potentially embarrassing email, according to newly released documents.

Doug Drever, who has worked for the military for years, bucked his bosses and refused to follow instructions he apparently believed were unethical.

The exchange between Drever, senior military officers and Drever’s bureaucratic overseers offers a rare inside glimpse at the contortions government can twist itself into as it weighs whether to make information public or keep it hidden.

The Star – Canadian newcomers dread changes to citizenship rules

Canada’s new class of immigrants is younger and more promising than ever: in their mid-20s and 30s, with Canadian education credentials and work experience — and jobs already lined up.

To achieve the immigrant dream, they’re prepared to pay their dues, working hard on temporary study and work permits to prove their value to Canada before earning what used to come much more easily: permanent resident status.

But with changes to the Citizenship Act announced last month, their journey to becoming fully Canadian is about to get even longer.

 

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Harper Watch, February 15 to February 25, 2014


 Brilliant, true and hilarious article. G&M’s Gerald Caplan at his best: “Leopards don’t change their spots, and Mr. Harper is one diehard cat.”

G&M (Gerald Caplan) –If Harper wants to win again, there’s a former world leader he should learn from

People with no real lives of their own have been furiously debating whether Stephen Harper will lead his party into the next election or leave the poisoned chalice to his successor. For months now, the Conservatives have polled at 30 per cent or under – it was 29 per cent last week – a figure that makes defeat a pretty safe bet. Mr. Harper can hardly be looking to end his long political career by being electorally humiliated. And by the callow Justin Trudeau at that. So being the smartest guy in any room, wouldn’t he choose to step down first? Unless, say the bloviators, he changes his strategy. Here there is profound lack of consensus. Leopards don’t change their spots, and Mr. Harper is one diehard cat.

OPINION, COMMENTARY

The Telegram – If you’re a non-voter, you’re part of the problem

Don’t care about politics? Chances are, you’re just the kind of voter a heck of a lot of politicians in this country love to have in their districts or ridings. Why? Because if you only have to convince three out of 10 people to vote for you instead of 10 out of 10, it’s easier to gather a smaller collection of the like-minded.

The Record – Veterans ill-served by Harper Tories

In the past, it took at least six to eight months to get my veteran’s issues finalized. Now with these cutbacks, I worry it’s going to be a lot longer. How the Harper government thinks it is doing its best with the quality of life for veterans with this big turnaround time is totally wrong.

Ottawa Citizen – Column: The revealing attack on Andrew Leslie

He joins an opposition party. His new party asks him to co-chair a review of defence and foreign policy and to speak at its policy convention this coming weekend. It sees him as a prospective candidate in the next federal election.

But then, curiously, it comes to light that since his retirement in 2011, the former general has sold his home in Ottawa and bought another one. The Department of National Defence has paid for the move.

On cue, a chorus of indignation. It’s a lapse of ethics! It’s deceptive! It’s greedy! Why, he’s “the Mike Duffy of the Canadian military.”

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Talk of Trudeau’s inexperience little more than Conservative pulp fiction

In Stephen Harper’s republic of fictions, one of the bigger ones is that Justin Trudeau isn’t qualified to be prime minister.

Nonsense. In a democracy, we all are or none of us is.

The current prime minister has offered a lot of reasons why people should vote for him. First there was honesty, accountability, and cleaning up government.

That didn’t go so well, so next came the pipeline economy. Everything will be fine if only we drop the maple leaf and put a barrel of oil on our flag.

But is that really such a good thing?

CONSERVATIVE ELECTION FRAUD

Canada.com – Election act changes could muzzle report on probe into robocalls, lawyer warns

(Horrifying. Will the Cons get away clean with election fraud? Looks more and more likely by the day)

A clause muzzling investigators in the Conservatives’ new election act could prevent Elections Canada from ever reporting on the outcome of its investigation into fraudulent and deceptive calls in the 2011 campaign, says a former lawyer for Elections Canada.

The Conservatives promised to pass legislation toughening election rules in March 2012, when Canadians learned of allegations of fraudulent telephone calls in the “robocalls” scandal in the May 2011 election.

But the bill tabled by the government earlier this month actually may prevent Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, from reporting to Parliament on the results of an investigation into allegations of dirty calls across the country, says James Sprague, who was senior general counsel at Elections Canada until he retired in 2006.

Hill Times – Elections Canada says Opitz exceeded 2008 nomination campaign donation, only had one other donor for $50

(Twenty years ago, an MP caught doing something this serious would have been forced to resign.  In Harperland the scandals come so fast one can barely keep track never mind keep them accountable.  It’s a shock and awe campaign of scandals.)

Conservative MP Ted Opitz, who reached an agreement with the federal elections commissioner acknowledging that he donated nearly $7,000 more to his election nomination campaign in 2008 than he was legally allowed, had only one other contribution, $50, for the contest, the MP’s new return to Elections Canada shows. The settlement with Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke-Centre, Ont.) goes back to last October, but it was disclosed by the commissioner in the midst of a high-profile battle between the Conservative government and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand over major changes the government is proposing for the Canada Elections Act, including significant restrictions to the freedom and powers of the chief electoral officer.

Huffington Post – Tory MP Brad Butt Admits Claim Of Witnessing Voter Fraud Wasn’t ‘Accurate’

(A sudden attack of conscience?)

“I made a statement in the House during the debate that is not accurate, and I just want to reflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed individuals retrieving voter notification cards from the garbage cans or from the mailbox areas of apartment buildings,” he said.

“I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that.”

rabble.ca – Harper’s election ‘reforms’ contradict what Conservatives voted for in 2012

Hamilton MP David Christopherson’s motion enjoined Parliament to give Elections Canada all the necessary powers to investigate and punish the sort of voter suppression that happened in 2011 .

It was clear to anyone who was paying attention at the time that all members of Parliament agreed on what should be the focus of those new rules: the dangerous fraud of impersonating an Elections Canada official.

The unambiguous sense of Christopherson’s motion was that Parliament should give Elections Canada the tools necessary to make sure such fraud never happened again.

Well, the Conservatives, every last one of them, voted for that motion, and then they showed they didn’t really mean it.

National Post – Conservatives’ Fair Election Act proposes to eliminate Elections Canada’s abilities to run get-out-and-vote campaigns

OTTAWA – Among the controversial proposals in the Conservative government’s proposed Fair Elections Act is one to eliminate Elections Canada’s abilities to run campaigns encouraging Canadians to get out and vote – no matter who for.

According to Pierre Poilievre, Canada’s minister of state for democratic reform, Elections Canada’s outreach campaigns – which began in 2003 in response to decades of declining voter turnout, particularly among youth — have failed to combat the troubling trend seen in Canada and virtually every western democracy.

But Poilievre’s equation doesn’t add up for experts who study the complex phenomenon of voter turnout.

FISCAL FIBBING

Globe and Mail – What the Finance Minister hasn’t told Canada’s middle class taxpayers

“Canadian families keep more of their hard-earned dollars as a result of the government’s actions to reduce the tax burden,” the 419-page document points out.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to many Canadians that the government’s long road back to a balanced budget is as much a story about rapidly growing tax revenues as it is about more widely discussed spending cuts.

In the wake of cuts to the GST and corporate income tax rates, personal income taxes are carrying a growing and outsized share of the load of paying for government. By 2018, personal income taxes will account for 50 per cent of total federal revenue – far and away the largest source of money for Ottawa.

CBC News – Average family income in Tory budget called ‘make believe’

Middle-class families are struggling economically, but at least one of them is doing quite well, thank you very much: the working parents with two kids who appear as a fictitious example in the federal budget each year.

Critics say the family’s rapidly rising income is a complete fiction as well.

JUST PLAIN NASTINESS

CBC News – Watchdogs testify on bill partisan activities

(This is priceless. If it wasn’t so frightening, it would be hilarious. Kady O’Malley “The trouble there, of course, is that it would also require that parliamentary agent to decide whether to investigate themselves.”)

A trio of parliamentary watchdogs is set to appear before the House Ethics committee this morning to share their perspectives on Conservative MP Mark Adler’s bid to force agents of Parliament and their staff to publicly declare past political activity as part of a job application process.

Global News – Liberal MP Irwin Cotler barred from Conservative event in Israel: sources

(Adler, as you may recall, was the “million dollar shot” guy on Harper’s trip to Israel)

Frank Diamant, CEO of Binai’ Brith Canada, said he heard about the incident from a rabbi.

“My immediate reaction was surprise,” Diamant said. “Surprise on two levels – one, that Irwin was there; and second, that he was not given permission to come in the room.”

Diamant said he felt Cotler should have been allowed in.

“It was inappropriate to deny someone like Irwin, who pretty much knew all of us in the room.”

MORE ABUSE OF VETERANS

National Post – Retired general says Tories launched ‘personal attack’ over his expenses to undermine his role as Trudeau adviser.

A retired general who once led Canada’s troops in Afghanistan is accusing the federal Conservatives of a “personal attack” over his moving expenses to undermine his new role as a Liberal adviser. Former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie brushed off what he characterized as a partisan smear Sunday, saying he’s been shot at by “real bullets” and can withstand the scrutiny that comes with working for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The 35-year Canadian Forces veteran posted the comments online the same day the Defence Minister said he would ask his department to explain how it approved in-city moving expenses of more than $72,000 for Leslie — a Rob Nicholson said appeared “grossly excessive.”

Maclean’s – No mystery in the program behind the general’s moving costs

Or maybe Nicholson will conclude, after he gets around to listening to the explanation he’s requested from his own department, that it’s a bit much to put the onus on individual retiring soldiers to make that sort of ad hoc assessment. In that case, any problem with the design of the relocation program that results in excessive costs would be entirely the responsibility of the minister.

Herald News – Veterans start fund in bid to oust Tories

  (WHERE DO WE SIGN UP??)

SYDNEY — The war chest has been hauled up from the basement, ready to be used to help defeat the federal Conservative government, say local war veterans.

“The plan is to build a war chest so we can have money to do the things we need to do to make sure this government falls,” said Ron Clarke, a veteran who spearheaded the now-failed campaign to keep Sydney’s Veterans Affairs office open.

Clarke, a 36-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, told members of the province’s standing committee on veterans affairs in Sydney on Monday that vets across the country believe now is the time for action.

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME

The Spec.com – Court finds ‘enormous systemic problem’ in enforcement of Species at Risk Act

OTTAWA – A Federal Court judge has ruled that the environment minister and the fisheries minister both broke the law by failing to enforce the Species at Risk Act.

In a case covering four species that Justice Anne Mactavish calls “the tip of the iceberg,” the court found there’s a major systemic problem in the two ministries charged with protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.

The Star – How Harper’s government saves money by law-breaking: Walkom

The federal government claims its austerity measures are virtually costless.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have cut back spending to a degree rarely seen in this country. Between 2010 and the next election, the government predicts, it will have slashed direct spending by $45 billion

Yet it continues to claim that these cutbacks will have no real effect on the public. Instead, the Conservatives say, the brunt will be borne by those they dismiss as fat-cat, unionized civil servants.

But a recent Federal Court ruling challenges this rosy scenario.

CBC News – Oilsands study confirms tailings found in groundwater, river

“Well, it looks like what they’ve seen is that in fact the tailings ponds are leaking,” said Bill Donahue, environmental scientist with the oilsands advisory committee.

“They found also not only are those tailings ponds leaking, but it looks like it is flowing pretty much from those tailings ponds, through the ground and into the Athabasca River.”

“So, there goes … that message we’ve been hearing about. ‘These tailings ponds are safe, they don’t leak’ and so on.”

The tyee – Fisheries minister ignored advice from own scientists

When federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea approved the reopening of commercial herring roe fisheries on First Nations’ territories in British Columbia, she ignored the recommendations of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists.

In a memorandum addressed to the minister on Dec. 9 2013, DFO scientists recommend maintaining the closure of the areas around the west coast of Vancouver Island, the central coast and Haida Gwaii for the 2014 fishing season. Despite the advice, Shea announced on Dec. 23, 2013 that the three areas would be reopened to commercial herring roe fisheries at a harvest rate of 10 per cent in 2014. -

Global News – Conservatives eye Arctic reindeer reserve for oil and gas exploration

OTTAWA – Tracts of land that had been set aside for reindeer grazing in Canada’s North have instead been offered up by the Conservative government for oil and gas exploration, newly released documents show.

Companies interested in obtaining petroleum exploration rights in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea region of the Northwest Territories were asked last year to nominate blocks of land that they wanted to see included in a subsequent call for bids.

ANOTHER CASE OF DISAPPEARING MONEY

Maclean’s – Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund: where did the money go?

On a web page last updated December 5, DFATD said $35 million had been donated to registered charities. DFATD described this to Maclean’s as an “interim tally.” It would not provide the final amount.

It seems odd that the government is unable or unwilling to provide this information now. If an interim tally could be made available as donations were coming in, it is reasonable to expect that a final tally could be calculated five weeks after the deadline charities had to report typhoon-related donations has passed.

CANADA THE BAD

Ottawa Citizen – Colombian activists says Canadian companies benefiting from human rights abuses

(This sort of thing can only get worse under the Harper government’s restructuring of CIDA and their rampant free trade agenda)

OTTAWA — Three years after Canada signed a free-trade agreement with Colombia saying our country was committed to helping Colombians live “better, safer lives,” human rights activists came to Ottawa this week with a different message: Their nation is spiralling toward genocide, and some Canadian companies are reaping the benefits.

Canadian Dimension – Massive Canadian-Saudi export deal exposes Conservative hypocrisy

The Harper government’s real Global Action Plan, it indeed seems, is to sell pretty much anything to anyone. Compare this posture to the rhetoric of “ethical oil” which the government deployed in tandem with far right-wing boosters of the Alberta tar sands. The claim was that expansion of the tar sands was “ethical” since the alternative was to continue importing oil from places like Saudi Arabia.

 

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Harper Watch, February 7 to February 13, 2014


OPINION, COMMENTARY

The Star – The essence of Harper government is personal cruelty: Mallick

(Thank you for the mention Ms. Mallick. Our stats flew up in numbers and reach!)

I object to the Harper government for many reasons (harperwatch.wordpress.com provides a good listing service): damage to water, earth and sky via the tarsands, love of pipelines, no census, mandatory jail sentencing, service shrinkage, rubber-stamp Senate appointments, no harm reduction for drug users, the push for salesmanship over foreign aid, turning the Immigration Minister into judge and jury for deportations, silencing of scientists, rail safety deregulation, demonization of public servants, effective banning of strikes, contempt for women’s rights, proroguing of Parliament, voter suppression, plans for socially divisive income-splitting, and many more issues.

But I wouldn’t object to the above on principle if they were arrived at democratically, without abusing the absolute power given to the winner in our bizarre political system, without disrespecting the courts, without giving one the feeling that one no longer lives in an organized society based on the rule of law.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: The baffling silence of the backbench

Does anyone seriously believe that Conservative MPs are getting fan-mail over the atrocious disrespect the Harper government has shown to soldiers, ex-soldiers and their families? After all, the PM once said these soldiers were the best of Canadians. Is it likely these silent MPs will be greeted with brass bands when they return to their ridings?

The Harper government spent $28 million promoting the War of 1812 for political purposes — but for living soldiers the same government cut $35 million from Veterans Affairs and closed much-needed veterans centres.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: What problems are the Conservatives really trying to solve with bizarre Fair Elections Act?

To make sense of the many disparate provisions in the Conservatives’ sprawling 242-page Fair Elections Act, the first question to ask of each is not whether it is good or bad but: what problem was this intended to solve?

God knows we have enough real problems with how we run elections. The bill was born of the mess of the 2011 election, with its multiple allegations of voter fraud, including but not limited to the infamous robocalls affair: still unsolved, two years later, despite a Federal Court judge’s finding that, indeed, mass fraud had occurred. A partial list would also include the vast and needless expense of modern election campaigns, and the consequent diversion of party energies, rhetoric and policy to the ceaseless quest to raise funds. And, despite or perhaps because of all of these frenetic efforts to “reach out” to the electorate, the constant decline in turnout.

AlbertaDiary.ca – David Climenhaga: That ‘market freedom’? What a surprise, it’s wiping out farmers and enriching the 1%!

(The first comment below the article, complete with YouTube clip, captures the essence of the Harper and Ritz team)

Remember the “market freedom” the Harper Government was congratulating itself so heartily for delivering to Western Canada’s grain farmers a few weeks ago?

To create that “freedom,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and the trained seals in the federal Tory caucus have all but killed the Canadian Wheat Board. Now the freedom they boast about is killing the prices farmers get for their grain and enriching railroads and multinational food corporations.

Gee, who’d have predicted that?

THE UNFAIR ELECTIONS ACT

CBC Power and Politics on CBC Radio - Marc Mayrand – Chief Electoral Officer

(Mayrand is a true diplomat and gentleman – worlds apart from Pee Pee Poilievre)

Evan Solomon discusses the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act with Marc Mayrand. Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer has several concerns about the bill, and what the changes being proposed would mean for the state of Canada’s democracy.

National Newswatch – Elections watchdog fears reforms muzzle him

OTTAWA – The massive overhaul of the Elections Act proposed by the Conservative government may effectively muzzle and sideline Canada’s electoral referee-in-chief, says Marc Mayrand.

In his first public comments on the proposed legislation, the chief electoral officer said Thursday he will need weeks to fully understand the details of the 242-page bill — which alters everything from the rules on voting eligibility to how election fraud is investigated.

“My understanding is that I will be able to speak only on three aspects … how, where and when to vote. That’s basically it,” he said following a committee meeting on Parliament Hill.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: It’s lights out for fair elections

Once this bill is law, Canada’s chief electoral officer will have felt the castrator’s blade. Worse, Harper will have ruined another officer of Parliament who dared do his job, with the extra bonus that one more independent source of information has been institutionally decommissioned.

How odd that the very people who were called “serial cheaters” this week by Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair are now rewriting the mandate of the office that runs elections and vouches for their integrity. The people who were the problem are providing the solution, which in normal language is called being judge in your own cause. A dubious principle in law and politics.

Winnipeg Free Press – Election bill helps Tories exclusively

You have to admire Pierre Poilievre. Throughout the tabling of the laughable, lamentable Fair Elections Act, the minister of democratic reform managed somehow to keep a straight face.

Many others who witnessed the Tory government’s assault on Elections Canada had much more trouble hiding their disbelief.

The new legislation is full of changes to the electoral landscape. It removes powers from the office of the chief electoral officer and gives them to a new independent commissioner of elections, who will now be solely responsible for investigating electoral transgressions.

Vancouver Observer – Is the Fair Elections Act unconstitutional? The answer may be in the numbers

A government press release on the Act says that “Each time someone votes fraudulently, they cancel out the ballot of an honest voter.” New voter identification rules are designed to ‘crack down’ on the supposed problem of electoral fraud. But in a blog post published Sunday, Yale law student Adam Goldenberg argued the Fair Elections Act may even be unconstitutional.

According to Goldenberg, there is a legal ‘test’ of whether or not something is constitutional and reasonable infringement of Charter rights.

The Star – NDP grounds Commons committees over lack of hearings on Fair Elections Act

(Trudeau also makes an excellent point in the article)

OTTAWA—Parliamentary committees won’t be escaping the Ottawa winter any time soon.

In response to the government’s refusal to hold cross country hearings on the Fair Elections Act, the New Democrats denied consent to approve the travel budget for House of Commons committees.

“It’s the first time in Canadian history, it’s unprecedented that a government would use its majority to shut down debate on fundamental changes to Canada’s election law,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair Wednesday.

Ottawa Citizen – Mayrand denounces electoral reform bill in meeting with Elections Canada staff

OTTAWA — In a private address to Elections Canada staff on Wednesday, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand denounced the government’s electoral reform plans as retaliation for Elections Canada’s past clashes with the Conservative Party.

Mayrand drew loud applause from a large group of assembled employees when he vowed he would not resign from the top job and planned to stay on until the next election, expected in 2015.

 

FIRST NATIONS:  STILL WAITING

10 Unheeded Calls for a Canadian Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Call after call has gone out for a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances, but to no avail. From the national to the global stage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has given a flat-out no to the likes of the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, the Assembly of First Nations, church groups and a host of other organizations that have suggested he convene a panel to study the issue. His reason, he said last year, is that he does not think it would help solve the problem.

CBC News – Analysis: First Nations education needs fresh ideas, leaders say

When Stephen Harper apologized to the First Nations five years ago for residential schools and the lasting harm they caused, there was hope of a new direction for aboriginal education.

But the newly proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA) is drawing an overwhelmingly negative reaction from aboriginal leaders and educators, and criticism that the government plan lacks vision and flexibility.

WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS? (HINT: Starts with CON)

Vancouver Observer – Flaherty cites terrorism when asked why CRA is auditing environmental charities

A flicker of hesitation crossed Finance Minister Jim Flaherty‘s face as he paused to formulate a response to a question that many have been asking since last year: why is the federal government focusing its financial audits on charities that oppose oil pipeline projects?

When he responded to the Vancouver Observer, he almost appeared to lump environmental advocacy groups in the same category as charities funded by terrorism.

The Fraser Institute: 100% political and still a registered charity! Explain, please…

Other than Canadian political parties themselves, the Fraser Institute must be Canada’s most intensely political organization.

Notwithstanding its pious mission statement — “to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government interventions on the welfare of individuals” — essentially 100 per cent of the Fraser Institute’s activities are 100-per-cent political.

However, “a registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities,” the CRA states. “A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for office.”

The Star – Citizenship reforms a serious threat to rights of all Canadians

Rather than strengthening the rights of citizens, the new law demeans citizenship. Like the changes to the refugee laws that Ottawa sold by branding refugees as bogus, these proposals represent new Canadians as objects of suspicion and mistrust. That is the only justification for changes that will make citizenship unattainable for many and will facilitate its revocation.

As Canadians, we make our citizenship feeble if we give government ministers the unfettered power to extinguish it. As the United States Supreme Court stated a half-century ago, citizenship is not a license that expires upon misbehaviour. It is not a mere privilege. It is nothing less than the right to have rights.

VETERANS FIGHT BACK

Huffington Post – This Veteran Doesn’t Consider Himself a “Pawn”

But as anyone familiar with Canadian military history knows, attacking Canadian troops when they hold the moral high ground is very dangerous. And by attacking these 6 veterans, the Government has made another gave error — if you disrespect one Canadian soldier, you disrespect them all. And Them All is firing back. Rallies and sit-ins are forming up, veterans are demanding Fantino’s seat (since they can’t have his head), and the veterans community is declaring they will campaign against the Conservatives in 2015.

CONSERVATIVE ETHICS – SERIOUSLY?

Embassy – John Baird’s contradictory digital diplomacy

(An ironic little follow up on the canned Tweet story from last week)

For Foreign Minister John Baird, the timing of the revelations that Industry Canada tweets must follow a rigid and systematic set of protocols before being released to the public could not have been worse.

Just a few days after that story broke, the minister made it clear in a speech to California’s high tech firms that Canada was preparing to unleash its digital diplomats on the world in support of human rights and political protest. Baird’s apparent goal is to challenge oppressive governments who undermine freedom of speech by shutting down the flow of information across the Internet. (LOL!)

CBC News – Tories’ ethics report targets unions but fails to fix rules, opposition says
Report reflects little of testimony by ethics commissioner, experts

A new report from the House ethics committee ignores most of the suggestions about how to improve the rules for cabinet ministers and senior staffers, but recommends applying those rules to all union members working for the Canadian government.

The committee got hundreds of recommendations on how to improve or update the Conflict of Interest Act, the rules that set ethical guidelines for public office holders. But the final report, tabled Wednesday in the House of Commons, contains 16 recommendations, most of which have nothing to do with the expert witness testimony heard from January to June 2013.

The Star – Conservatives planning to undermine Justin Trudeau at Liberal convention

(Personal vendetta? Deep-seated jealousy? Or just plain terror?)

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are planning to target Justin Trudeau at the upcoming Liberal convention with a carefully orchestrated campaign to disrupt Liberal communications, highlight disunity in the ranks and question his leadership abilities.

The Star – Conservatives lay out re-election strategy in secret document

(Or: “Leveraging Laureen”)

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives have plotted a road map to a 2015 election campaign that counts on a massive donor- and voter-targeting effort, a communications onslaught, and a bid to “leverage” the popularity of Laureen Harper, the prime minister’s wife, according to documents obtained by the Star.

The 70-page slide show presentation to the Conservative party’s national council last weekend by executive director Dimitri Soudas appears to acknowledge that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has work to do to reach out to Canadians and win their trust for another government.

Digital Journal – Who Killed Canada Post’s Banking Study?

(Paving the way to full privatization)

Based on what we have learned so far,” says Gayle Bossenberry, 1st National Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), “it seems the report was on track to confirm the recommendations of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and vindicate what postal workers have been saying: there’s a great potential here to keep the public postal service self-sufficient. But instead they killed the research and buried the report.”

FLAHERTY’S FLOUNDERINGS

The Broadbent Blog – Harper’s unbalanced economic plan fails to help struggling Canadians

OTTAWA—Despite its commitment to eliminating the national deficit, Stephen Harper’s 2014 budget denies Canadians the help they need to reduce inequality and create good jobs. The budget also prepares the way for the implementation of income splitting, a $3 billion tax giveaway that offers no help to the Canadians who need relief the most.

With almost 1.5 million unemployed workers and a record 13% youth unemployment rate, Canadians need a government that prioritizes productive investments and secure, well-paying jobs over attacks on unions and ads for a phantom jobs grant. A lack of much-needed infrastructure investment further compounds problems for Canada’s municipalities.

The Star – Worried economists tell Flaherty to stop starving the economy: Goar

Hours before Jim Flaherty tabled his stay-the-course budget, 74 worried economists finally found their voices. “We, the undersigned, strongly urge the federal government to stop implementing fiscal austerity measures just to achieve its goal of budgetary balance,” they wrote in a collective statement to the finance minister.

It came too late to affect Tuesday’s budget or influence public expectations.

Winnipeg Free Press – Tories forge ahead on job grant, vow to enforce it with, without provincial laggards

“You can’t do it alone,” said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong. “It won’t work unless the provinces, territories and the federal government are working together. In the past, we have been successful as a country when we work together.”

Political Eh-conomy – Another (budget) day, another dollar (cut): Canada’s slow-motion austerity

(Something to always keep in mind when the Cons make “spending announcements” – the money is allocated, but not always spent)

A large portion of the already small bag of newly-announced expenditures reflects the difference between “new” and “announced” more than anything else. Indeed, fully half of the spending measures have been previously announced and ear-marked, including the Jobs Grant program and portions of big-ticket infrastructure spending on projects such as the planned bridge over the Saint Laurence in Montreal. Some measures are simply a slap in the face: the budget proudly proclaims that 200 new food inspectors will be hired, while leaving out the fact that 1400 such positions were just cut – a net loss of 1200 jobs.

Press Progress – Top 5 howlers in Jim Flaherty’s budget speech

Here are the top 5 howlers in Jim Flaherty’s budget speech, delivered in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon after the 2014-15 budget was tabled.

DISASTERS IN DEFENCE

Ottawa Citizen – Is defence procurement on the right track? NO

The government’s new defence procurement strategy is a disaster.

The most critical impediment to an efficient and effective defence procurement process is the lack of a single point of accountability. The overlap between the roles and responsibilities of the public-works and defence ministers guarantees that no single minister is held accountable for the billions of dollars spent annually.

THE CONTINUED DUMBING DOWN OF CANADA

Canada.com – (Mike DeSouza) Federal government cutting $3 billion from rail safety, health and environmental science: union

OTTAWA – The federal government will cut $2.6 billion in spending and nearly 5,000 jobs from its science-focused departments between 2013 and 2016, says a report released Thursday by a union representing government scientists and professionals.

The report, which includes survey data showing a majority of scientists believe their departments are weakening efforts to protect Canadians and the environment, highlights the departure of key experts who did research on rail safety and public health, as well as the recent review of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS AGAIN? OH RIGHT…WE ARE

The Star – Ottawa spent $69 million on advertising in 2012

OTTAWA—The Conservative government spent $69 million on advertising campaigns in 2012, bring Ottawa’s five-year total to more than $473 million.

The campaigns ranged from $14.8 million spent on advertising measures contained within the budget, to $3.1 million explaining Conservative cuts to Old Age Security, and $8.2 million informing Canadians about the importance of natural resources to the country’s economic fortune.

Canada.com – Mike De Souza: Union raises security concerns over $400-million federal email deal with Bell Canada

OTTAWA – Small businesses and a union representing professional public servants are raising fresh questions about the value and security of a federal government deal that is now underway with Bell Canada – worth up to $400 million over seven years – to restructure email services.

“I think it’s more about supporting their ongoing ideology about supporting corporate business,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “And at one point, Canadians’ data is just there to be exploited.”

National Post - Glen McGregor: Laureen Harper sells entire stock portfolio; PMO offers no reason

(Interesting tidbit for future reference?)

OTTAWA — An ethics disclosure filed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows that his wife Laureen liquidated her entire portfolio of stock market investments late last year.

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