Harper Watch – March 17 to 25, 2015


FOSTERING FEAR AND DIVISION

Huff Post – Canadian Bar Association Denounces Anti-Terror Bill

The Conservative government’s anti-terrorism bill contains “ill-considered” measures that will deprive Canadians of liberties without increasing their safety, the Canadian Bar Association says.

The bar association objects to the planned transformation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service into an agency that could actively disrupt terror plots.

It argues the bill’s “vague and overly broad language” would capture legitimate activity, including environmental and aboriginal protests — and possibly put a chill on expressions of dissent.

Hill Times – Anti-Terrorism Act House committee hearings a ‘sham,’ say opposition MPs

The House Public Safety Committee, studying the federal government’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill C-51, will hold marathon meetings this week to hear from 36 witnesses over four days, but opposition MPs say the entire process is not only a sham, but a contempt of Parliament.

Opposition MPs say witness testimony has been rushed and MPs won’t have enough time to properly consider feedback before diving into clause-by-clause consideration. The amendments are due March 27 and the deadline for clause-by-clause consideration is March 31. Some key witnesses requested by opposition MPs on the committee have not been invited to testify at committee, while other important witnesses have declined invitations.

iPolitics – Worried about C-51? You’re probably a terrorist

Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?   That, in one form or another, is the question being asked over and over by Conservative MPs of expert witnesses called before the Commons standing committee reviewing Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism law.

I spoke before the committee last week. I pointed to the danger in the bill’s much-expanded definition of national security and in its false conflation of peaceful protest with terrorism. I was expecting to be called on to defend our arguments, to cite evidence on how the bill’s sweeping new powers could be used against peaceful advocates for action on climate change.  No one on the government side seemed terribly interested in our argument — but they were very interested in us.

National Newswatch – Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

As the war drums beat ever louder across Canada, this seems to be the advice Stephen Harper’s Conservatives want Canadians to follow.

The question is, afraid of what and whom? Islamic terrorism? Right-wing and white supremacist ideologies? Lone wolves? Violent anti-petroleum extremists? Canada’s environmental movement?

The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CISIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seem to be unsure and so now are clumping them all together for safety’s sake .

Toronto Star – CSIS highlights white supremacist threat ahead of radical Islam
“Lone wolf” attacks more often come from white supremacists and extreme right-wing ideologies than from Islamic radicalism, internal CSIS documents say.

Citing recent academic research, the unclassified documents note extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideology has been the “main ideological source” for 17 per cent of so-called lone wolf attacks worldwide.

G&M (Lawrence Martin) – Provocation, pandering and prejudice in our politics
Last week, at an event in Saskatoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper turned his focus to guns. He talked about there being too many restrictions on gun ownership, making the point that people in rural areas need guns for self-defence.

He used his wife Laureen as an example. “My wife’s from a rural area and obviously gun ownership wasn’t just for the farm, but was for a certain level of security when you’re a ways away from immediate police assistance,” he said.

THE ECONOMY

Toronto Star – OECD slashes forecast for Canadian economy, blaming oil price declines
The OECD has sharply cut its growth forecasts for Canada for this year and next, a continuing reminder of how sinking oil prices are pulling down the country’s economy.

The downgraded projections from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development come amid mounting job losses in Canada’s oilpatch. Talisman Energy, Nexen Energy and ConocoPhillips Canada have all separately announced plans to eliminate hundreds of workers in the coming weeks.

The OECD now estimates the Canadian economy will expand by 2.2 per cent in 2015. That’s 0.4 of a percentage point lower than previously thought.

Globe and Mail – Only 15 per cent will benefit from Tories’ ‘family tax cut’: budget watchdog
The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the Conservative government’s income-splitting tax cut will cost $2.2-billion this year and only benefit about 15 per cent of Canadian households.

A report released Tuesday takes a closer look at the “Family Tax Cut” announced in the fall by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that would allow couples with children under 18 to transfer income for tax purposes up to a maximum savings of $2,000.

Toronto Star – Inside Ottawa’s $24-million oil ad campaign

The multimillion-dollar campaign to market Canadian oil in the U.S. was hard to miss.

The Maple Leaf was plastered on the walls of subway stops in Washington, D.C., and it popped up in all sorts of American publications with messages such as “America’s Best Energy Partner” and “Friends and Neighbors.”

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press offer a peek into the careful strategic considerations and internal discussions behind the $1.6-million (U.S.) ad campaign launched in 2013. That blitz was followed up by a $24-million, two-year international program that wraps up this month.

The Tyee – Harry Smith Is Coming for Stephen Harper

A sparkling-clean nation where everyone willingly paid their taxes is the Canada that Harry Leslie Smith remembers choosing as a place to raise his family and live his life decades ago.

Now, at 92, Smith has become a sensation in the United Kingdom for his opinion pieces and memoir Harry’s Last Stand, in which he draws parallels between his brutal childhood in the U.K. and where the western world is headed today as government austerity grips many of its countries.

”He is really, to me, the worst prime minister that ever existed,” Smith said over the phone from Manchester, pausing for a drink of water. ”Since Harper has come into power, everything has gone downhill. He has one consideration, and that is to let the rich get richer and the poor fend for themselves.”

VETERANS AND THE VULNERABLE

Ottawa Citizen – Chapin: What veterans’ families want

Migneault wanted VAC to recognize the struggle of spouses who care for veterans with injuries such as PTSD. Since then, she’s used the publicity from her infamous encounter to meet with more than 150 politicians – including Romeo Dallaire, Justin Trudeau and eventually, Fantino himself – to advocate for more family support.

Migneault does not think cash is the solution. She wants a program that trains family-turned-caregivers to live with PTSD. “I can have all the money in the world,” she told CBC in reaction to the caregiver benefit. “But if I don’t have a quality of life, this money doesn’t serve anything.”

Ottawa Citizen – After 35 years, federal government takes jobs from developmentally disabled workers
(The government has since assured the workers will remain employed. Let’s see if they actually mean it.)

“I loved working there,” she says. “It was a nice job and we got paid for it. I liked everything about the job. All the people I work with I like very much — they are all my friends.”

Whincup’s workplace is — or was — a wastepaper sorting and disposal plant at Tunney’s Pasture where she and dozens of other developmentally disabled people have been gainfully employed disposing of copious quantities of secret and confidential federal government paper — as much as 40 per cent of it — since 1980.

As of month’s end, their workplace and sense of community and friendship will be just another empty federal government building. The group of 50 workers has been told to vacate the premises.

Canada.com – Details, details: Defence minister Jason Kenney’s blunt style betrays him
Defence Minister Jason Kenney’s credibility has come under fire after some recent public miscues, just as the Conservative government is proposing to expand Canada’s war against the Islamic State.

Kenney has been a visible presence on television and radio news shows, on Twitter and in Parliament since taking over the all-important defence file six weeks ago. He has been forceful on the threat posed by ISIL, proclaiming the government’s support for the military and hammering the opposition for its views on the conflict.

Yet Kenney, one of the few ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet allowed to speak freely, has also found himself clarifying or backtracking on some of his blunt assertions.

Ottawa Citizen – New records detail how climate-change views scuttled artist’s grant
A British Columbia artist and environmental activist accuses government of misusing its censorship powers to hide a politically driven effort to silence her because of her views on climate change and the oilsands.

Franke James found herself on the federal government’s radar in the spring of 2011 after Canadian diplomats agreed to offer a $5,000 grant in support of a European art tour featuring James’s artwork. The grant was revoked a few days later by a senior director of the Foreign Affairs Department’s climate change division, who felt the funding would “run counter to Canada’s interests.”

The show for which she wanted the grant was to be “all about inspiring people to reduce their carbon footprint,” James said in an interview.

Pivot – Harper government moves to block supervised injection services for drug users in Canada
Today, the House of Commons passed Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act. Pretty title, but like so much Conservative legislation, the meaning of the title, like the bill, is cruelly ironic.

What the Respect for Communities Act does is effectively ban supervised injection facilities like Insite. The bill will make it much harder for Insite to stay open, and it effectively prevents a similar centre from opening in any other Canadian city.

(Some background to above article. The passing of the Bill, as you might notice, was not reported in the MSM)

CPHA – Bill C-2: Let’s get serious about respecting our communities

While the intent of the Bill may be to stimulate a legitimate community consultation process, the list of information requirements contained in the current text (27 in total) places an emphasis on the opinions of non-local governments and stakeholders, as opposed to those of the community. As such, it is CPHA’s opinion that, if enacted, the Bill will subvert the interests of the community, in contradiction to its stated title.

 

 

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Harper Watch – March 10 to 17, 2015


WE’RE STARTING WITH SOME VERY INSIGHTFUL HUMOUR THIS WEEK

Rabble.ca (Gerald Caplan) – Everything you need to know about the Middle East to keep you safe from Bill C-51

Islam, like all religions, is divided. As you observed, there are two main denominations, Sunni and Shia. There are way more Sunni in the world than Shia but lots of the Shia are in the wrong place, like Iran. The western world generally doesn’t like the Shia, often seen as more extreme, so you could say we are pro-Sunni. But both ISIS and al-Qaeda are Sunni, so we must be anti-Sunni. But Sunni ISIS kills other Sunnis by the tens of thousands (plus anyone else they can get their mitts on, especially Shia).  As well, Saudi Arabia is Sunni and anti-ISIS, but so is despicable Iran, which is hugely Shia. This really complicates things. Sunni ISIS and Sunni al-Qaeda also loathe reach other, and both of course hate Shia Iran, and (possibly) vice versa.

Are you with me so far, Peter? No worry. You can rest assured Stephen Harper and his ministers have all this down pat.

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

Rolling Stone – Crude Awakening: How the Keystone Veto Dashes Canada’s ‘Superpower’ Dreams

Canada has benefited from Harper’s oil boom — though less than you might imagine. In a quirk of Canadian law, the federal government collects no oil royalties. Its fortunes rise, indirectly, from oil, benefiting only from GDP growth and the surge in corporate and payroll taxes. The province of Alberta does collect oil royalties: C$5.2 billion last year alone. But far from socking that money away in a sovereign wealth fund — as Norway has done, amassing a portfolio worth more than $800 billion — the province has pissed it away on tax cuts.

More about the tax breaks and royalties (or lack thereof) paid by oil companies.

CBC – Job quality in Canada at 25-year low, says CIBC

Not happy in your job? Feel like you can’t get ahead. A new study by CIBC Economics says you may have ample reason.

CIBC says its index of Canadian employment quality is at a 25-year low, and nothing the Bank of Canada can do to adjust interest rates is likely to fix the situation.  In fact, its job quality index has been trending down for the past 25 years and is 10 per cent below its level in the 1990s, the CIBC report said.

That means more people are working part-time instead of full-time, more people are self-employed instead of having secure employment and more are in low-wage jobs than at any time in the last 25 years, says CIBC economist Benjamin Tal…..

“If we have a whole army of people who are buying lunches in a can, we’re not going to stimulate the economy and create the kind of jobs that would enable people to make a decent living,” said Wayne Lewchuk, a McMaster University professor who has researched precarious employment.

 More on this important topic.

VOTE BUYING

Huffington Post – Diane Finley, PMO Under Fire For $1-Million Violation Of Conflict-Of-Interest Rules

Opposition parties demanded to know Wednesday why the Prime Minister’s Office influenced a $1 million funding decision that the ethics watchdog said broke conflict-of-interest rules……

“There were 167 projects submitted, and only five were chosen,” the NDP leader said. “Four fulfilled all the criteria, but the fifth was managed by a good friend of the Conservatives. According to the evaluation of the department, it was one of the worst projects out of the 167. Guess which one was chosen?”

A damning report by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson found that Finley, now the public works minister, had broken the Conflict of Interest Act and Treasury Board policy by giving preferential treatment to a non-qualifying project championed by a well-known Jewish leader with ties to the Conservatives.

CREATING DIVING, PROMOTING ISLAMOPHOBIA

CBC – Bill C-51 hearings: Diane Ablonczy’s questions to Muslim group ‘McCarthyesque’

The head of a group representing Canadian Muslims accused a veteran Conservative MP of making slanderous comments during expert testimony on the government’s proposed anti-terror legislation Thursday night.

During a question-and-answer session following National Council of Canadian Muslims executive director Ihsaan Gardee’s presentation to the House public safety committee on Bill C-51, Diane Ablonczy used her allotted time to “put on the record” what she described as “a continuing series of allegations” that the NCCM has ties to groups that have expressed support for “Islamic terrorist groups,” including Hamas.

Gardee pushed back.  “First and foremost, I’ll say on the record that NCCM has condemned violent terrorism and extremism in all of its forms, regardless of who perpetrates it for whatever reason,” he told the committee.  “However, the premise of your question is false, and entirely based on innuendo and misinformation.”

Contrast to this inspiring message of inclusion from Justin Trudeau

Macleans – For the record: Justin Trudeau on liberty and the niqab

Full text of the much talked about speech Justin Trudeau gave in Toronto on March 9th, 2015

VIDEO:  https://www.facebook.com/JustinPJTrudeau/app_142371818162

 

 “SECURITY” AND WARMONGERING

Toronto Star – CSIS highlights white supremacist threat ahead of radical Islam
“Lone wolf” attacks more often come from white supremacists and extreme right-wing ideologies than from Islamic radicalism, internal CSIS documents say.  Citing recent academic research, the unclassified documents note extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideology has been the “main ideological source” for 17 per cent of so-called lone wolf attacks worldwide. Islamic extremism accounted for 15 per cent of such attacks, the document noted, while left-wing extremism and “black power” groups followed with 13 per cent….

The CSIS documents explicitly warn that the notion the Western world is at war with Islam plays into terrorist recruitment strategies.  “International terrorist groups place a high priority on radicalizing Westerners who can be used to carry out terrorist attacks in their home countries,” the documents read….

Other CSIS documents, obtained by The Canadian Press, warned the Conservatives last September that there is an emerging anti-Islam movement in Canada, similar to movements in Europe.

iPolitics – A pigeon in hawk’s feathers: Harper on security

Stephen Harper’s gotten me so scared, I feel like hiding in a closet.  The prime minister is quite right — the highest purpose of government is to protect its citizens. Why, then, does he try to scare the bejesus out of them every day?

I thought leaders in times of crisis were expected to keep calm and carry on, maintaining stiff upper lips and carrying sticks bigger than their tongues. Not our guy. He mongers fear across the land — fear of criminals, fear of terrorists, fear of Iran, fear of Russia — fear in every case gussied up with purple prose, proud to be certain, proud to be loud.

iPolitics – Former SIRC chair Atkey calls for better review, parliamentary oversight in C-51

Former Conservative MP Ron Atkey speaks from experience when he tells the House public safety committee that if we want to protect Canadians, the Harper government’s anti-terrorism legislation should include a beefed up Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and a form of parliamentary oversight.

“The answer to whether parliament or a specialized agency should have the power to review security agencies is easy for me: Canadians should have both,” said Atkey, who served as the first Chair of SIRC from 1984-89.

“It is unfair to dramatically expand CSIS powers to conduct disruptive or international activities to fight terrorism at home and abroad while leaving the watchdog frozen in time,” said Atkey. “Failure of the government to address this issue in the context of this bill is irresponsible.”

Ottawa Citizen – NATO disputes Conservative claim that Russians confronted Canadian warship

The Conservative government has ratcheted up its war of words over Ukraine, with the parliamentary defence secretary claiming Russian warships confronted a Canadian frigate in the Black Sea.

But NATO officials say no such thing happened.

James Bezan, parliamentary secretary to Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney, told the House of Commons earlier this week, “Since arriving in the Black Sea, Royal Canadian Navy sailors have been confronted by Russian warships and buzzed by Russian fighter jets.”  Kenney also repeated the claim the next day, stating that a Russian jet buzzed the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton at low altitude.

But NATO officials say the frigate, part of a NATO naval task group, was not buzzed and there was no confrontation.

 

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Harper Watch – February 25 to March 9, 2015


COMMENTARY 

ipolitics – Michael Harris: More red meat for the hang-‘em-high crowd

In the kick-ass rodeo of Canadian politics, Stephen Harper has created a new event: Trojan horseback riding.  C-51 is supposed to confer safety and security on Canadians. Hidden inside are the seeds of a police state.

Before that, Bills C-38 and C-45 were supposed to “streamline” governance. In the belly of these undemocratic monstrosities was legislation designed to gut environmental law, axe the federal spy watchdog and empower the cabinet to approve pipelines over the heads of regulatory boards.

Foreign Policy Journal (Book Review) – ‘Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover’ by Michael Harris

This work, Party of One, should be the political work of the year, and perhaps should stand as the best for this century. It is one of the most powerful books I have read and it should be read by everyone. Anyone entertaining the idea of argument with Harris’ solid base of research (through documents and personal interviews) will need to stifle all independent thought and critical analysis abilities. Such however are the very abilities of the Conservative caucus in face of their dear one and only leader, Stephen Harper….

Party of One is a necessary read for all interested in political affairs in Canada and its relationship with the world around it. It is powerfully written and gives much information and supporting detail to support the idea that Canada has already suffered a radical makeover under his regime.

iPolitics –  Harper’s terror talk could drive terrorist recruitment: ex-CSIS operative
This singling out of Muslims as a security threat stands in stark contrast to the measured position of the Obama administration. It is also exasperating to those within the Islamic community on the front lines of combating extremism — people like Mubin Shaikh.

Shaikh was the former CSIS and RCMP operative who foiled the Toronto 18 plot. He currently consults on security issues with U.S. Special Operations Command, Interpol and NATO, and is working on his PhD in psychology studying radicalization. In spite of his significant contributions to fighting domestic terrorism, he told The Tyee that the Harper government does not seek out his advice and that its Muslim-focused fear mongering is, in fact, undermining national security.

 Toronto Star – Tories’ cynical monument to victims of communism
(Also an excellent summary of Western atrocities)

Ottawa’s promised new memorial to victims of Communism threatens to be both an esthetic monstrosity and a tribute to moral obtuseness. Many have expressed alarm about its visual impact, from the mayor of Ottawa to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, without deterring the Harper government from financially and ideologically backing the project.

Toronto Star – Harper senators hold McCarthyesque hearings

Bullies maintain that their victims are being overly sensitive — making too much fuss about nothing, really. Similarly, a Conservative senator is berating Canadian Muslims for being “thin-skinned” in reacting to increasing hostility towards them.

Senator Lynn Beyak did so last week at a hearing of the Senate committee on national security, as my colleague Tim Harper wrote Monday, bemoaning this “slide into intolerance.”

Beyak and her Conservative colleagues — Daniel Lang (chair), Jean-Guy Dagenais, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Vern White (all Stephen Harper appointees) — have packed the hearings with ideological soulmates and have been using their parliamentary platform to recycle the anti-Muslim rhetoric of extreme right-wingers in Europe and the United States.

Toronto Star (Tim Harper) – Stephen Lewis roars once more in takedown of Stephen Harper government
(This is from 2014, but worth repeating)

At the age of 77, Stephen Lewis describes himself as being “happily in his dotage,” a man free to bare his soul and dispense with diplomatic niceties.  He did just that in Charlottetown last Friday. The one-time lion of the left unleashed a withering roar over eight years of Stephen Harper government that deserves to be moved from the relatively tiny confines of the Confederation Centre of the Arts and into a larger forum.

Lewis focused on five fronts of perhaps irreversible decline in this country, five only, because time did not allow him to get into all the factors that “scar my soul.”  The former Ontario NDP leader, United Nations ambassador and lifelong human rights advocate took aim at the “pre-paleolithic Neanderthals” in office and their role in the decline of Parliament, the suppression of dissent, the plight of First Nations, their blinkered climate-change policy and our plummeting world status.

Chronicle Herald (Ralph Surette)  – Harper exploits weak opposition, media amnesia
Stephen Harper, a master propagandist of the first order, is doing it again. He’s blowing the dog whistle and he’s got them running, no matter what gets trampled. This time, the overblown tune is war, terror, security, with civil liberties, prudence and rational thought underfoot.

The issue here is not just Harper. It’s also the failure of the opposition to crystallize the argument against him over the long term, not just with regard to the terror legislation but with most of the agenda.  For the two-thirds of Canadians who want him out, unless something changes, it looks like the only real hope is that he’ll beat himself

Murray Dobbin’s Blog – Why is the West Spoiling for a Fight with Russia?

What are the consequences when elected governments make policy based on faith and imperial hubris instead of science and expertise? It’s a question that is forcing itself on the world as we watch the United States, Britain, NATO and the Harper government continue to up the ante in the confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine. There are real enough geo-political dangers in the world without actually creating them out of arrogance and ignorance but that is where we are right now and the consequences could be catastrophic.

 TERRIFYING! 

Edmonton Sun – Tories under fire for using terrorist propaganda to promote C-51
An Edmonton MLA is blasting the federal Conservatives for an “irresponsible” social media post about terrorist threats to West Edmonton Mall.

On Monday, the federal Conservative Party of Canada shared a screengrab on Facebook from a video by al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based terror group that attacked Kenya’s Westgate Mall in September 2013, killing 67 people and wounding more than 175 others. A portion of the video encourages attacks on several other malls, including West Edmonton Mall.

Ottawa Citizen – The Gargoyle – Kenney tweets misleading photos of Muslim women in chains
(This is despicable! The images are used completely falsely and out of context. Watch the video of the little girl supposedly being married off. She’s actually just given a wrong answer in a competition and the guy is comforting her.)

Defence Minister Jason Kenney used the occasion of International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS by tweeting photographs of Muslim girls and women covered in black and being led off in chains.

“On #IWD2015, thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls,” he tweeted along with the pictures on Sunday.

One image shows a group of girls, dressed in burqas and chained at the wrists, being with taken away in pairs. Another shows four women with faces covered, also chained together.

(Meanwhile, Kenney’s brother seems to be into terrorizing young people in his care…..)

Ottawa Sun – Families allege abuse at Jason Kenney’s brother’s treatment centre
Three families have launched a lawsuit alleging their teenage kids were bullied and mistreated at an unlicensed youth treatment centre run by Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s brother.

NeurVana Innovative Recovery and Wellness in Kelowna, B.C., run by David Kenney and his wife Susan, purports to help kids with drug addiction, depression and psychological issues. It bills itself online as being “officially recognized by the province of British Columbia.”

Not so, says the provincial government, which closed the centre in December for operating without a license. Government officials informed parents their kids would have to go home.
(Warning, reader discretion is advised. The remainder of this article is extremely disturbing.)

Vancouver Observer – Harper government doubles down on weapons manufacturing contracts
(Why do Cons love war so much? Follow the money)

Despite a reputation for cool-headed diplomacy during perennial conflicts, the Harper government is doubling down on its weapons-manufacturing capabilities— and quickly expanding its comparatively tiny defence sector into what the tight Cabinet around the prime minister sees as a key driver of Canada’s economic future.

BC News – Canadian Embassy went too far to protect mining company interests in Mexico, critics say

Said MiningWatch’s Moore, “These findings confirm our fears that the Canadian government’s policy to harness its whole diplomatic corps to serve private interests abroad, something it calls ‘economic diplomacy’ in its Global Markets Action Plan, will contribute to further harm.”

“The lobbying should stop and Canada should focus on corporate accountability and re-orienting policy in the extractive industry to respect communities and the environment.”

VETERANS

Huffington Post – Roméo Dallaire Calls For Better Support For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Retired Lieutenant General and former Senator Roméo Dallaire says Veterans Affairs Canada isn’t coming close to meeting the needs of veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

Dallaire, who has been outspoken about his own struggles with PTSD, is in Vancouver as the keynote speaker of a Canadian Mental Health Association conference that will focus on hearing from people who work on the front lines in jobs where post traumatic stress disorder is too common.

Huffington Post – Veterans Will Need To Verify Lost Limbs Every 3 Years, Instead Of Annually

A wounded soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan will have to verify his condition and the kind of support needed, including his wheelchair, to Veterans Affairs every three years, rather than annually under a policy change.

The revision was quietly unveiled in the House of Commons on Friday by Pierre Lemieux, parliamentary secretary to the veterans minister.

FIRST NATIONS

National Post – Stephen Maher: Harper and aboriginals not in same room, let alone on same page

On Friday afternoon, Stephen Harper went to Rideau Hall to present the Public Service of Canada’s Outstanding Achievement Award to Ian Burney, assistant deputy minister of trade.

The prime minister did not have time, or judge it appropriate, to attend another event taking place in Ottawa: the national roundtable on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which took place in a downtown hotel.

The Guardian – Canadian government pushing First Nations to give up land rights for oil and gas profits

The Harper government is trying to win support for its pipelines and resource agenda by pushing First Nations to sideline their aboriginal rights in exchange for business opportunities, documents reveal.

The news that Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is working to this end by collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is sparking strong criticism from grassroots Indigenous people.

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT

Vancouver Observer – Feds to reopen herring fishery despite objections by First Nations and scientists

Five B.C. First Nations, along with federal scientists, still believe herring stocks on the west coast of Vancouver Island, around Haida Gwaii and on the central coast are in a seriously fragile state. That’s why the Aboriginal communities filed an injunction to stop the federal minister, who re-opened the resource to commercial fishing in January.

Controversially, the court heard that Minister Gail Shea, a Conservative MLA from PEI, made the decision against the views of her own federal scientists. Last year, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists told her:

“For the three [herring fishing] areas showing signs of recovery, it is recommended that they remain closed in 2014,” a DFO memo concluded.

The minister was not immediately available for comment late Friday.

CBC News – Cod fishery extended into spawning season … again

Inshore fish harvesters on the south coast of Newfoundland are accusing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) of using the guise of science to allow large company-owned trawlers to catch cod during a time that is traditionally closed for cod spawning.

The cod fishery in area 3Ps was set to close for spawning on March 1. But it was decided, the same as last year, the fishery would remain open until the end of March to help gather more information.

An organized group of fish harvesters on the south coast has opposed the idea since it’s inception, suggesting it is specifically geared to allow large fish companies to harvest the fish they still have left in the water.

ECONOMY

Huffington Post – Harper Government Sitting On Cash Earmarked For Economic Development: NDP

Three NDP MPs accused the Harper government on Tuesday of not spending tens of millions of dollars that are earmarked for economic development in outlying regions.

The government is withholding the funds to lower the federal deficit, they told a news conference.

 

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Harper Watch – February 15 to 24, 2015


THE ANTI TERROR ACT – IS IT “PUBLIC SECURITY” OR THE ROAD TO FASCISM?

Times Colonist – Amid security debate, former PMs call for better intelligence accountability

Four former prime ministers and several retired Supreme Court members are among almost two dozen prominent Canadians calling for stronger security oversight.

The joint statement published Thursday was signed by Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Joe Clark, John Turner and 18 others involved in security matters over the years.  They include five former Supreme Court justices, seven former Liberal solicitors general and ministers of justice, three past members of the intelligence review committee, two former privacy commissioners and a retired RCMP watchdog.

They note that detailed recommendations for a new intelligence watchdog regime — put forward in 2006 by the federal inquiry into the Maher Arar torture affair — were not implemented.  Efforts to enhance parliamentary oversight of national security agencies have also been unsuccessful, they point out.

Several groups including Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomed the statement.  The government’s recently tabled anti-terrorism bill, which would give CSIS the power to disrupt plots, was debated Thursday at second reading in the House of Commons. Opposition MPs accused the government of rushing the bill through Parliament. They said the new powers would allow security agencies to go after the government’s enemies, such as environmentalists.

National Post – Former CSIS officer warns new federal anti-terror bill will ‘lead to lawsuits, embarrassment’

Former CSIS officer Francois Lavigne is alarmed by the Conservative government’s new anti-terror bill. He believes the measures proposed in C-51 are unnecessary, a threat to the rights of Canadians and that the prime minister is using fascist techniques to push the bill. Mr. Lavigne started his career with the RCMP security service in 1983, before the CSIS was established…..

He spent years tracking dangerous radicals without the powers the government wants to give to CSIS. “I find it a little convenient that in the past few years that these radicalized people are the biggest threat to ever hit us,” he said. “There are more people dying because of drunk drivers or because of gang violence.”

Ottawa Citizen -Prime minister a no-show at Commons’ anti-terror debate

Despite hailing new anti-terror legislation as fundamental to the fight against “the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend either of two days of debate on the bill in the House of Commons this week.

CBC – CSIS watchdog agency starved of staff, resources

The independent watchdog Stephen Harper points to as providing the necessary oversight of Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, is operating with fewer resources than it had when his government took power nearly a decade ago.

“We already have a rigorous system of oversight on our national security and police agencies,” the prime minister told the Commons earlier this month…..

In 2006, SIRC employed 20 lawyers, researchers and support staff. That number fell to 14 last year. The organization now has 16, because two positions were added after the government abolished the inspector general’s office inside CSIS. That office played a key role in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the agency.

CBC – RCMP bombed oil site in ‘dirty tricks’ campaign

(From 1999, but with this kind of thing going on, how do we know for sure what the truth is about terrorism in Canada?)

The Mounties bombed an oil installation as part of a dirty tricks campaign in their investigation into sabotage in the Alberta’s oil patch.

The revelation came at the bail hearing Thursday of two farmers who the Crown says have turned their complaints that oil industry pollution is making their families ill into acts of vandalism and mischief.

Their lawyer produced evidence that the RCMP bombed a wellsite and that they did it with the full support of the energy company that owned it. The Crown admits the allegations are true.

COMMENTARY

rabble.ca – Ralph Nader: What’s happening to Canada? Open letter from Ralph Nader to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister:

Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation — the new anti-terrorism act — is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.

Toronto Star – Charity law blocks progress on issues facing Canadians

Canadian charities are under attack. Environmental, human rights and international development charities, organizations struggling to address poverty and women’s issues are examples of non-governmental organizations that have lost their ability to issue charitable tax credits under the Income Tax Act. Either that or they face the threat of a loss as a result of ongoing Canada Revenue Agency audits.

These groups have one thing in common. They turned a spotlight onto Harper government policies or advocated for public policy change that might alleviate society’s gravest ills.

JOBS AND ECONOMY 

iPolitics – Babbling while the economy falls to its knees

This government has adopted an austerity-led growth strategy. We got the austerity — we just didn’t get the growth. Annual economic growth has fallen in every single year since 2010. Forecasters, including the Bank of Canada, are lowering their growth forecasts for 2015 to below 2 per cent, a far cry from the almost 2.5 per cent they were forecasting only a few months ago. The Canadian economy is in a deep freeze, and the only thing Oliver and Prime Minister Harper can think to do is more of what they’ve done: cut spending….

And what’s all this nonsense about “growth and long-term prosperity”? The International Monetary Fund has been warning for months that the global economy and the Canadian economy are entering a period of deep stagnation, high unemployment and growing income inequality. Potential economic growth in Canada has fallen from almost 3 per cent per year a decade ago to under 2 per cent now. The Conservative government’s economic growth strategy was a gamble on a single commodity and a desperate drive to build pipelines. They had no backup plan.

National Newswatch (Senator Colin Kenny) – Harper’s Election-Year Gambit: It’s the Economy Stupid

So, what does a government facing re-election do when its top agenda item, economic management, is in tatters? It changes the channel to something else, something that plays into the anxieties of Canadians and helps them forget about the Harper government’s shortcomings on the economy.

Enter terrorism. A recent Nanos poll has found that 66 per cent of Canadians believe we are war with terrorists, and the prime minister wants to tap into that sentiment.

The subject matter may be different, but the prime minister’s strategy for owning the national security file is the same as with the economy. Hammer home your message, no matter how inaccurate, and hope voters lose sight of the facts. This means passing unnecessary anti-terrorism laws. This means putting out “24/7” videos that build up the prime minister’s anti-terrorism image. And it means acting like a tough guy in front of Putin.

National Post – Federal government commits $11 million more to advertising, bringing total to $65 million this fiscal year

The latest federal spending estimates show that four federal government departments have been given another $11 million for advertising as the current fiscal year-end approaches.

The ad spending splurge comes amid large campaigns promoting Conservative family tax measures that have not yet been approved by Parliament and aggressive Defence department recruitment ads that dovetail with current Conservative anti-terrorism messaging.

In total, the Conservative government has now committed $65 million to advertising this fiscal year, which ends March 31.

CBC News – Fisheries Act changes worry scientists, seafood industry

“In my opinion, the reason that the changes are being made is just to reduce the oversight of Environment Canada, who is the administrator of that section of the [Fisheries] Act and allow the industry more free access to some of the higher-risk chemicals” used to kill sea lice.

These chemicals are a concern for many in the wild seafood business, like Stewart Lamont, the managing director of Tangier Lobster.   “Potentially it’s a huge concern because of the potential lethal impacts on lobster and other wild fisheries,” said Lamont.

Ottawa Citizen – PMO flooded with angry emails over employment insurance changes and OAS

Almost three years after its sweeping reforms to the employment insurance system and Old Age Security, the federal government has released public correspondence sent to the Prime Minister’s Office on the changes – with the PMO flooded by angry emails and letters from Canadians.

Many of the emails sent to the office said the government’s changes to employment insurance and the Old Age Security pension were an attack on hardworking Canadians and middle-class voters.

CANADA IN THE WORLD

Huffington Post – Canada’s Opposition To Palestine’s United Nations Involvement Appalling, Says Envoy

Canada has formally opposed Palestinian attempts to join 15 different United Nations treaties and conventions — a position that puts the federal government on the wrong side of history and at odds with its citizenry, the Palestinian envoy in Ottawa says….

Canada also opposes the Palestinian bid to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), a treaty that Canada itself signed in 2008 but has yet to ratify.  While the Canadian government has yet to formally deposit any ratification documents on the CCM with the UN, it has nonetheless managed to register its objection to the Palestinian desire to ratify it….

Israel’s 72-hour bombardment of south Lebanon with cluster bombs in the final hours of its 2006 summer war with Hezbollah terrorists spurred the international effort to create the treaty banning the weapons.

BACK IN COURT

Toronto Star – Court challenge launched against Conservatives’ election law overhaul
Two advocacy groups are asking the courts to set aside new Conservative election rules that will make it more difficult for thousands of Canadians to vote in this year’s federal election.

The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students have filed evidence to support a constitutional challenge of the 2014 reforms, dubbed the Fair Elections Act by the Harper government.

They say new voter identification rules contravene Section 3 of the charter, which states everyone has the right to vote, as well as the equality provisions in the Constitution.

 

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Harper Watch – February 1 to 14, 2015


SPECIAL FEATURE 

Huffington Post – Rick Mercer: Harper Government Makes Injured Veteran Prove His Legs Haven’t Grown Back (VIDEO)

Huffington Post – Paul Franklin: Each Year, Veterans Affairs Makes Me Prove I Lost My Legs
In regards to Rick Mercer’s rant from the other day, I was contacted by Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole for a request for a telephone conversation about my file.  Here’s my response:

Minister Erin O’Toole,

I have had many issues in my nine years as a wounded soldier and as a vet.

After returning in 2006, the Department of Defence (DoD) did amazing things and worked tiredly on the issue and where VAC (Veterans’ Affairs) failed to deliver they stepped up. Upon my retirement “my file” of course went to VAC and to quote a great writer “and this is where my trouble began.”

COMMENTARY

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Sucked in by the soap opera while democracy burns

So what’ll it be? Eve Adams and blond ambition? Heartbreak Justin’s dubious judgement? Or Mrs. Harper’s salsa?

The most arbitrary government Canada has ever had is transforming the country into a war-mongering, arms-selling police state while the nation debates recipes and political soap opera.

The Georgia Straight – Charlie Smith: Good riddance, John Baird

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s resignation is being greeted with the usual positive pap from the mainstream media.

Baird’s penultimate statement today (February 3)—that people need to be defined by their values—was the type of sound bite that he mastered over 20 years in politics. His gift of the gab often camouflaged a foreign policy that was out of sync with many Canadians’ values.

The negative fallout of the Conservatives’ foreign policy has undermined Canada’s reputation in many countries.

National Post – Craig Scott: Why make it hard to vote?

The federal government is proposing a new law for Canadians overseas who want to vote in federal elections. At first glance, the bill looks like a good thing. But look a little closer, and it becomes clear that Bill C-50 — the “Citizen Voting Act” — should more properly be called the “Blocking Citizens from Voting Act.”

Globe editorial – Parliament must reject Harper’s secret policeman bill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.

Toronto Star – Errol Mendes: Tories’ anti-terror bill undermines values it’s meant to protect
With its new anti-terror bill, the Harper government is playing unseemly politics with Canadians’ safety and civil liberties.

When a prime minister announces one of the most draconian anti-terrorism bills in his nation’s history — and does this not in the national legislature, but at an election-type campaign stop in a riding his party hopes to hold in a looming election — Canadians should be worried about the democratic stability of the country.

Eagle Feather News – Letter to the Prime Minister: Amend “Fair” Elections Act
(This is from April 17, 2014, but remains a serious issue as the election approaches.)

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am the Chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, which is the largest First Nation in Saskatchewan with 10,023 members, of which 6,136 are of voting age. We are a multi-community band comprising of six separate communities.

I am writing to request the federal government consider amendments to Bill C-23 (The Fair Elections Act) to accommodate the democratic rights of First Nations voters. Comprehensive consultation with Canada’s First Nations is needed before making any future changes to the way federal elections are administered.

Huffington Post – Ralph Goodale: Harper Should Not Brag About His Fiscal Reputation
With Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) actually shrinking and despite having the worst economic growth record of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett, Stephen Harper seems keen to brag about the fiscal reputation of his Conservative Party. Well, let’s take a close look.

…Mr. Harper overspent by three times the rate of inflation. He eliminated all the contingency reserves and prudence factors that had served as fiscal “shock absorbers” to get Canada successfully through untoward events like international currency crises, the SARS pandemic and 9-11. And he put this country back into deficit again BEFORE the recession arrived in the latter part of 2008.

Huffington Post – Gavin Magrath: It’s Not What Liberals Gain With Eve Adams But What Conservatives Lose

Either or both of them may turn out to be worth much more, but it makes no difference. When rats start fleeing the ship, it’s not worth debating their quality. Whether they’re fat healthy rats or sick and wounded rats, they flee the ship because they realize that it’s sinking.

CBC News – Hey Harper – Want to stop promoting terrorism? Stop calling them ‘jihadists

Harper has lied about the war on terror, and there is nothing to suggest this time he is telling the truth.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada’s spy agencies and police need “sweeping new powers” to fight Islamists and jihadists, and the worldwide movement that hates our open, tolerant and free society.

Enough already.  Harper’s Chicken Little act is getting tired. Time and time again we’ve been lied to about the war on terror, and there is no reason to suspect that this time we are being told the truth.

HARPERNOMICS

iPolitics – Elizabeth May: Harpernomics 101: Oil, debt and fantasy math

Stephen Harper’s fiscal strategy is being undermined by an economic nightmare. This one isn’t coming out of the eurozone or the United States. No, this time it’s the prime minister’s own policies that are the nightmare.

True, Canada rode out the 2008 financial meltdown better than most. Our prime minister was quick to take credit for that, but the credit should have gone to the previous administration for rejecting the banking industry’s demands for deregulation. Ironically, had Harper’s party succeeded in persuading the government of the day to accede in the banks’ demands, he would have had a much rougher ride.

Now – Who owns Stephen Harper?

More than $2 million was donated to the Prime Minister’s two leadership bids, but the identities of his major backers have never been publicly disclosed.

(Koch!, Koch!…oops I meant cough!, cough!)

With a federal election looming, two pressing questions involving the role of money in Canadian politics are attracting surprisingly little media attention.

The first: who owns Stephen Harper?

This isn’t a philosophical enquiry. It’s a straightforward question about the identity of the secret donors who paid the bill for Harper’s rise to power, first as leader of the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservative party.

Donors contributed more than $2 million to the prime minister’s two leadership bids, but the identities of some of the major donors have never been publicly disclosed, according to Ottawa-based corporate responsibility advocacy group Democracy Watch.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL

Globe and Mail – Ottawa spends $1.3-million fighting sick moms’ EI disability benefits lawsuit
The federal government has spent more than $1.3-million in legal fees to prevent new mothers who fell seriously ill while on maternity leave from collecting disability benefits in addition to the employment insurance that is paid to new parents.

A class action lawsuit was launched in Federal Court in 2012 by two Calgary women on behalf of an estimated tens of thousands of new mothers who were denied the EI disability benefits or dissuaded from applying for them. It is seeking more than $450-million in compensation.

APTN – Survivors from electric chair-equipped residential school facing another court fight with Ottawa

Indian residential school survivors who attended an institution that used an electric chair to torture students are returning to court in another effort to force the federal government to release uncensored documents from the investigations and criminal trials of former school staff.

Huffington Post – There Is A Way To Fix First Nations Education
And This Is How It Starts

While expert after expert has identified high school graduation as the key to closing the employment gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, the quality of education on reserves still lags dramatically. After that visit to Toronto, Shannen wondered why one of the richest countries on Earth couldn’t find a way to educate all its kids equally.

JUST WRONG

iPolitics – Poilievre obstructed efforts to improve EI system: Jennings

Canada would have a fairer and more equitable employment insurance system today if it weren’t for the Conservative government’s new employment minister Pierre Poilievre, says former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings.

Jennings, who served in 2009 on a blue ribbon panel set up to look at Canada’s employment insurance system, says Poilievre deliberately obstructed the panel’s attempts to improve Canada’s employment insurance system from the very start – seemingly carrying out instructions from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I went in there with the real hope or desire that there was real opening on the part of the Harper government to actually affect real change on the employment insurance file and it became clear very, very early on that Pierre Poilievre was there with strict instructions that there wasn’t going to be any significant change,” Jennings recalled in an interview Wednesday with iPolitics. 

CBC Radio – Brother of Mohamed Fahmy lashes out at John Baird and Canada’s handling of his case

In response to the delay in Fahmy’s release, Clooney wrote to Prime Minister Harper, complaining of the lack of Canada’s lacklustre engagement with the case. “Currently discussions are taking place at a lower-than-ministerial level on this case, which is not appropriate given the urgency of the matter today,” she writes in the letter, dated February 8.

Baird flew to Egypt last month and met with his Egyptian counterpart, while also pledging $20 million to support economic growth in Egypt.

“This is not just an insult to my brother,” says Adel Fahmey in the interview with As it Happens. “This is an insult to all Canadians.”

CBC News – Letting RCMP patrol Parliament Hill could raise constitutional issues
“Parliament is supposed to be independent of government, therefore the security forces are always under the supervision of the sergeant-at-arms. who is accountable to the speaker.”

Ultimately, he stressed, it is the Speaker’s office that is in charge of the precinct.  “I think it’s symbolic of how the government treats this place,” he added.  “This government wants to control everything.”

Globe and Mail – New Victims of Communism memorial in Ottawa a looming disaster
Now, all of Ottawa is talking about another looming disaster – a memorial to the Victims of Communism that is about to take over a parcel of land between the Supreme Court of Canada and the National Library, a small park-like oasis along Wellington Street where, this past week, there were only squirrel tracks to be found in the fresh-fallen snow.

That land is said to be worth $1-million. For nearly a century it had been earmarked as the site of a new federal court, but has now been handed over for the memorial, along with a pledge of $3-million to help pay for the $5-million project – the remainder to be raised by a charity group called Tribute to Liberty.

CityNews Toronto – List of federal government’s recent Supreme Court losses

The Supreme Court has unanimously struck down Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted death, a practice opposed by the Conservative government. The court, of late, has repeatedly ruled against federal government arguments on a variety of issues.

Toronto Star – Migrant construction workers sue Ottawa for discrimination

More than 150 migrant construction workers are suing Ottawa, claiming they have been discriminated against under a program that invites them to work in Canada but welcomes only English-speaking candidates when it comes to letting them stay on permanently.

The workers from Italy, Portugal and Poland have been employed in Canada on work permits for at least two years. But under the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program, they must pass a language proficiency test to be considered for permanent resident status.

Vancouver Observer – New Tory employment minister brings American-style right-wing agenda to the job

The Harper administration has just appointed Pierre Poilievre, the former Conservative minister for democratic reform, to minister of employment and social development.

Maclean’s magazine once described the controversial and fiercely partisan 35-year-old MP as “the baby face of Canadian conservatism.” For the past few years, he has pushed right-wing policies that echo those advocated by the American Koch brothers and the Tea Party movement they fund.

Minister Poilievre expressed his desire to implement anti-union “right to work” legislation in 2012, at the same time that U.S. states such as Wisconsin and Michigan passed legislation that undermined unions.

FEARING FEAR ITSELF

Huffington Post – Edward Snowden Warns Canadians To Be ‘Extraordinarily Cautious’ Over Anti-Terror Bill

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden addressed students at a Toronto private school via video link on Monday to warn about the perils of being complacent as the government makes sweeping changes to Canada’s anti-terrorism laws.

“I would say we should always be extraordinarily cautious when we see governments trying to set up a new secret police within their own countries,” Snowden said in a livestream feed from Russia. He made reference to Bill C-51, legislation tabled by the Conservative government days earlier.

CBC News – Peter MacKay’s friends, colleagues make up 6 of 9 judge appointees
A news site connected to the Broadbent Institute is raising questions about why six of the nine judges appointed to Nova Scotia courts since October 2013 have personal, professional or political connections to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

ipolitics – Stephen Harper’s imaginary justice

When historians look back on Stephen Harper’s time in office, they won’t remember his fiscal management (shaky) or his record as a champion of democracy (laughable). He’ll be remembered as a serial loser at the Supreme Court — and a bad loser, at that.

TOO FUNNY, TOO TRUE (SATIRE ALERT!)

The Beaverton – Terrorists applaud anti-terror legislation for eroding much-hated freedom
Militant Islamic groups from around the world have applauded Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recently proposed anti-terror legislation for chipping away at the Western-democratic style of freedom they so vehemently hate.

“We are pleased to see that your Prime Minister has seemingly aligned himself with our ideal of degrading the ugly and sinful freedom in which his country’s citizens so decadently wallow,” said Yousef Muammar Al-Jafar of the terror cell, Righteous Blade, a fighting group associated with ISIS in Iraq.

 

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Harper Watch – January 24 to 31, 2015


SPECIAL POST

Peace, Earth and Justice News – ELECTION 2015:A Long List of the transgressions of the Harper government

Since 2006, the Harper Government has caused the dismantling of Canada and has contributed to Canada’s being perceived as an international pariah.

Leading up to the 2015 federal election, we have the opportunity to denounce the Harper government for years of transgressions.  Here is a beginning list.

TOP COMMENTARY PIECE OF THE YEAR SO FAR

Halifax Herald (Ralph Surette) –  Attention voters! Send Tories packing

What’s going on under the radar — where it’s kept thanks to the Harper government’s expertise in propaganda and manipulation — is the rodent-like gnawing at democratic process and the country’s fundamental legal structure.

Here’s merely the latest example. The government has been firing researchers in the Justice Department because the facts they were coming up with didn’t square with the party line, especially on their regressive prisons policy. On top of that, laws have been passed with admitted major errors. The Tory majority in the Senate breezed them through. For a country based on laws, this is both disgraceful and ominous.

The “agenda” is to yoke every important national function — the law, the courts, the tax system, the civil service, important offices like the Chief Electoral Officer, and every aspect of government policy, notably science — to make them serve the function of keeping the Conservative party in power. These are the natural instincts of dictators. The next election will put Canadians to the test.

COMMENTARY 

iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Harper whispers his way into another war

The resolution on the Iraq mission that passed the House of Commons explicitly ruled out ground-based combat operations. Now, Mr. Harper has deployed Canadian special forces in such a way that they have become involved in what the parliamentary resolution expressly forbade: ground combat….

The American perspective is important in this matter because the coalition against IS is led by the United States. The Pentagon has expressly forbidden U.S. soldiers from doing what Canadian special forces are doing — because that would be a “combat” role, rather than “advise and assist”. In fact, Canada is the only coalition member whose ground forces have militarily engaged with IS — three times.

Toronto Star (Bob Hepburn) – Is Stephen Harper friend or foe of democracy?

Back in 2006, Stephen Harper rode to electoral victory by promising the most sweeping package of democratic and parliamentary reforms the country had ever seen. While his critics may have doubted his commitment, Harper in fact acted quickly by making the Federal Accountability Act the first piece of legislation he n brought in after assuming power.

At the time, Harper said the act would restore Canadians’ trust in government, limit political donations, restrict lobbying by former cabinet ministers, decrease the control of leaders over party nominations, reduce secrecy and ensure protection for whistleblowers. Today, most of those promises are sad jokes.

G&M (former Ambassador Paul Heinbecker) – Canada’s bluster over Palestine’s ICC bid betrays its principles

Canada’s vocal opposition to the Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC) rends further the Harper government’s already tattered claim to pursuing a principled foreign policy.

The position taken by Canada also vitiates Canadian interests in the promotion of international law and in the peaceful settlement of disputes. It deprecates as well the extraordinary achievements of successive Canadian governments, including the Conservative government, in creating and supporting the Court.

Huffington Post (Ralph Goodale) – Harper’s Budget Delay Shows Fear and Incompetence
Sharply dropping oil prices and a weakened Canadian energy sector are revealing the limited, ineffectual nature of Stephen Harper’s economic policies. Those policies, focused almost exclusively on that one sector, are too narrow. They have rendered Canadians more vulnerable and less resilient. And his government seems out of gas.

Toronto Star – Why haven’t any Harper-friendly charities been scrutinized

It turns out charities in Canada — at least the ones the government doesn’t like — are forbidden from “exercising moral pressure.” As if that isn’t the entire point of charitable enterprises. The absence of the profit motive and of self-interest in those involved in such an organization virtually defines a charity. Without those two things, what’s left is the pressure of morality compelling people to do the right thing.

But that’s illegal for a charity, it turns out.

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Harper’s success part of a global network of lies … and liars
Three of the biggest truth-tellers on the planet — Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning — are out of circulation. One is locked in an embassy, another is in exile in Russia, and the third is in jail in the self-proclaimed world’s greatest democracy.

At the same time, some of the biggest liars on the planet are running governments in the West. What’s wrong with this picture?

The next prime minister of Canada has either got to let Canadians in on what is really happening in this country and this world, or see the profession of politics fall into permanent disgrace. It won’t be lousy voter turn-out we’ll be talking about then — it will voter turn-off and the extinction of democracy, Alberta-style.

The lies, obfuscations and skullduggery have got to stop. Is there anyone in the country who believes the Harper government’s latest whopper that a $26 billion sole-sourced contract for new frigates was the work of a bureaucrat and that cabinet had nothing to do with it?

CBC Opinion – Jobs down, unemployment up: Harper fails work-seeking Canadians
In this election year, the prime minister has some explaining to do:   Canadian labour markets are in worse condition than originally imagined, according to a new report by Statistics Canada.

We knew the Canadian labour market was not in great shape.  After all, in lowering its trendsetting benchmark rate to 0.75, the Bank of Canada last week cited the slack in the Canadian labour market as one of the reasons.

INFORMATION

Globe and Mail – Damage from cancelled census as bad as feared, researchers say
The cancellation of the mandatory long-form census has damaged research in key areas, from how immigrants are doing in the labour market to how the middle class is faring, while making it more difficult for cities to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, planners and researchers say.

Statistics Canada developed a voluntary survey after Ottawa cancelled the long-form census in 2010. Many had warned that the switch would mean lower response rates and policies based on an eroded understanding of important trends. Now researchers – from city planners to public health units – say they have sifted through the 2011 data and found it lacking….

“It has certainly impacted my own work on what has been happening to middle-class earnings in Canada,” says Charles Beach, professor emeritus of economics at Queen’s University.

JOBS

Huffington Post – Canada’s Job Growth For 2014 Revised Downward By A Third
Statistics Canada released revisions to unemployment figures on Wednesday, and it turns out Canada’s less-than-stellar job market was even less stellar than thought last year.

The statistical agency reduced its estimate of jobs created in 2014 to 121,000 from earlier estimates of 186,000, a reduction of about a third. The new numbers mean Canada’s unemployment rate was bumped up to 6.7 per cent, from 6.6 per cent.

The revised number “shows that the labour market failed to make significant headway last year,” CIBC World Markets said in a note.

Toronto Star – Government had warning about foreign workers and youth unemployment
The Conservative government knew the temporary foreign worker program was causing pressure on youth employment almost a year before reforming the program, documents show.

In an August 2013 briefing note for Employment Minister Jason Kenney, department officials warned that industries which commonly employ young Canadians are also among the employers hiring the most temporary foreign workers.

“Five of the top six industries that employ the most youth were also in the top half of (temporary foreign worker) program users,” reads the document, prepared shortly after Kenney was appointed to the department.

CBC News – Canadian workforce at lowest level in 14 years in 2014

Just 121,000 more Canadians found jobs in 2014 and the number of people in the workforce has fallen to the lowest level in 14 years, according to Statistics Canada.

That’s because the growth in the number of Canadians of working age, which rose 1.1 per cent, outstripped the growth of jobs in the economy, which grew by 0.7 per cent.  The labour participation rate, a key measure of whether Canadians are working or looking for work, fell 0.6 percentage points to 65.7 per cent in December 2014 — the lowest since 2000.

Part of the decline is due to an aging population, as Canadians over 55 are less likely to participate in the workforce.  But a low labour participation rate also indicates many Canadians have lost confidence they can find work. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high.

OH THE TERROR! YOUR 1:20,000,000 CHANCE OF BEING KILLED!

The Guardian – Canada’s new anti-terror legislation prompts civil liberties fears
Declaring that “a great evil has descended on our world”, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unveiled legislation giving security forces sweeping new powers to apprehend suspected terrorists and disrupt their activities.

The new Anti-Terrorism Act – the latest in a series of such measures adopted by the Canadian parliament since the 9/11 terror attacks – will make promoting terrorism a crime subject to five years in prison. It will give the Canadian spy agency enhanced powers to disrupt suspected terrorist activity at home and abroad, and permit courts to shut down any Canadian-based website seen as promoting terrorism or seeking recruits.

Ottawa Citizen – Editorial Board: Anti-terrorism provisions potentially harmful

There are many reasons to be appalled by the haphazard, overbearing and ill-defined provisions criminalizing the general promotion of terrorism that were presented by the federal Conservative government on Friday, but worst of all is the potential they have to actually increase the likelihood of radicalization and terrorism in Canada.

Toronto Star  (Thomas Walkom) – Canada’s new backward-looking terror law

But on first reading, it’s hard to see the point of Bill C-51. In Canada, it’s already a crime to plan or support terrorist activity. The RCMP already uses legal methods to disrupt planned terror attacks. That’s what it did with the Toronto 18.

On Friday, Harper was asked whether his new bill could have prevented either of last fall’s attacks on soldiers in Ottawa and Quebec.

He said he wasn’t sure.  It was a refreshingly honest answer. But it raised the broader question: If the government doesn’t know whether these measures will do any good, why is it proposing them?

 VETERANS

Vancouver Observer – Sorry, soldiers who died for Canada weren’t citizens: government
“What does it matter that maple leaves adorn tombstones of various cemeteries in Europe…? Canada has lost none of its nationals during the last two World Wars, at least not officially,” begins an article recently published in Le MondeFrance’s most famous newspaper.

“Because, according to Ottawa, Canadian citizenship never existed before the Citizenship Act on January 1, 1947.”

Kelowna Daily Courier – Frustrated veterans give MPs an earful

Veterans blasted Conservative MPs over bad communication and long waits for disability benefits at an emotional gathering in Kelowna.  Soldiers who served in five conflicts turned up Tuesday at the Royal Canadian Legion on Bertram Street to hear MP Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre) lead an hour-long presentation on how the Veterans Affairs department is trying to improve services across the country.

Some of the 30 in the crowd became frustrated halfway through Hawn’s slide show on a screen so small that few could read the words. When he tried to explain how Veterans Affairs Canada is delivering services after closing its Kelowna office, Korea veteran Lawrence Crosthwaite had had enough.

National Newswatch – Feds spend $700,000 on vets court case

In response to a written question posed by the opposition, the Department of Justice said it spent $694,070 in legal fees, while National Defence spent $3,231. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau used the cost to demand in the House that the lawsuit be dropped.

Liberal veterans critic Frank Valeriote described the government’s response as “hypocrisy,” noting that the issue for ex-soldiers is not the system itself, but the amount of funding within it.

“It is not the new veterans charter that is the problem, it’s adequacy of the funding given to those programs and the sufficiency of the awards given to our veterans through the application of the charter,” Valeriote said.   “Spending $700,000 a year to fight vets in court is not supporting our troops,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair fumed during one heated question period exchange with Harper.

WARMONGERS

iPolitics – Why selling weapons to Saudi Arabia is a bad, bad idea

This much you know: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sealed a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy light armoured vehicles from Canada.

Here’s what you might not know: The Saudi regime is buying these vehicles not to defend the nation from foreign threats, but to protect the regime from Saudis — from internal dissent and demands for reform.

Although both the Canadian and Saudi announcements of the deal early last year — which is being offered up by Ottawa as a triumph for Canadian manufacturing — were shy on detail, various reports say the LAV III light armoured vehicles, made by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London, Ontario, are not for the Saudi Arabian Army.

Toronto Star – Ottawa refuses to release cost of Iraq mission

The federal government has formally refused to release any details about the cost of Canada’s ongoing military mission in Iraq, prompting opposition charges of cover-up.

In a response to a question by NDP MP Jack Harris, the government says it knows the estimated price tags for its air and ground operations but is refusing to make them public because the situation is “dynamic.”

Instead, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said in a formal response tabled in the House of Commons that Harris — and all Canadians will have to wait until months after the mission ends before the costs will be revealed.

National Post – John Ivison: $26B shock — Canada’s largest ever defence procurement handed off in sole-source contract

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser. The old saying is doubly apt in defence procurement, where losing bidders always claim nepotism, corruption or incompetence.

But accusations that the government has sole sourced a military contract even larger than the one at the centre of the F35 fiasco may be more than just sour grapes on the part of those frozen out.

There was genuine shock in Ottawa defence circles when an apparently routine information session on the efforts to build a new warship fleet — Canada’s largest-ever defence procurement project — revealed, without fanfare, that Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax had been awarded the designation as prime contractor on the $26-billion procurement to build up to 15 ships.

Ottawa Citizen – Government’s definition of combat doesn’t make sense, say veterans
The Conservative government’s definition of what constitutes combat is not only wrong, but ignores some of the actions of Canadian soldiers in conflicts from the Second World War to Afghanistan, say war veterans and historians.

Dealing with accusations that it misled Parliament about the role of Canadian troops in Iraq, the government has responded with its definition of a combat role.

ECONOMICS

Hill Times – Families earning more than $233,000 will gain most from Conservatives’ income splitting plan, says new report

Families with income more than $233,000 a year stand to gain most under the Conservative government’s controversial income-splitting tax break, a new study of the costly program has found.

“The richest families are most likely to make at least $1,000 from the new policy,” says the study released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

While two-thirds of the richest families will get at least $1,000 by splitting spousal income, with the lower-income spouse being assigned up to $50,000 of the other spouse’s higher income for income tax purposes, that chance that a middle class family will receive a benefit of even $1 is “as good as a coin toss,” says a 40-page report on the analysis.

Huffington Post – Tories’ Low Tax Claims Contradicted By $3.4B In New Revenue: Liberals
As Canadians begin to look forward to a series of new federal tax measures kicking in soon, newly-released figures show changes to taxes and tariffs are also helping bolster the government’s bottom line.

Data tabled in the House of Commons this week shows a variety of tax changes and the elimination of old tax credits will rake in more than $3.4 billion for the federal government in 2015-2016.  And those numbers don’t include what the government is collecting on user fees for services like passports and citizenship, or recent new tariffs on imports.

Huffington Post – Health Canada’s Medical Pot Program Racks Up Millions In Costs
As Health Canada expects to spend more than $2 million this year to review applications from companies vying for entry into the commercial medical marijuana market, some of them having burned through millions of dollars trying to navigate a process that insiders say is mired in red tape.

The federal government, which has attracted about 1,200 would-be pot producers with the allure of a potential $1.3 billion industry, has licensed only two new companies to sell the drug in nearly a year, amid growing accusations that Health Canada’s selection process is sluggish, convoluted and arbitrary. One company even believes the government is deliberately trying to stop medical marijuana growers from getting licensed, according to a court affidavit.

Huffington Post – Government Paid $180,000 To Run Empty Mining Ombudsman Office
The Harper government spent more than $180,000 last year to run the office of a corporate social responsibility counsellor for the Canadian mining industry — even though there was no counsellor.

The government says it cost $181,600 to operate the office from October 2013 to October 2014.  However, the position of counsellor was vacant all that time and remains so to this day.

Ottawa Citizen – The federal government has spent $57 million on access to information consultants since 2006

The spending over the past nine years on outside consultants to help decide which government records Canadians are allowed to obtain.

Most of that spending occurred during the last four years.  The $57-million price tag is for spending starting in fiscal year 2006-2007, after the Conservatives were first elected to government.

About 60 per cent of that money has been spent since the Conservatives won a majority in 2011.  The money was spent by departments to handle access to information requests and complaints, according to documents tabled in Parliament this week. The spending is above and beyond that allocated to full-time staff handling such requests in each department.

 

 

 

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Harper Watch – January 11 to 23, 2015


COMMENTARY

MUST WATCH VIDEO: Vancouver Observer – Kevin Page
Ex-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page on muzzled scientists, secrecy and “broken” government

CUSP – The Harper Sin List
(aka Stephen Harper’s Résumé)

50+ Harper government outrages and counting

There are at least a hundred more. We hope to add them as time permits.

And, by the way, please check this even more comprehensive list of about seventy items by science librarian, John Dupuis. To think this comprises only the science attacks! — The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment, May 20, 2013.

 ipolitics – Michael Harris: Meet the real Stephen Harper

In politics, as in baseball, the rule is simple: Three strikes and you’re out.

When Stephen Harper finally shambles towards the showers, head down, bat in hand, I’ll be thinking of Mighty Casey. For much of his career, Harper has umpired his own at-bats. But that role will soon — if briefly — fall to the people of Canada. Election Day is coming to Mudville.

Toronto Star (Suan Delacourt) – Stephen Harper keener about free expression away from home
The real test of standing up for strong principles, most would agree, is defending them at home and afar. But what happens when freedom of expression collides with the need to win elections or manage the message, or with the everyday discipline of power?

Later this month, a new book will be released: Kill the Messengers, a sweeping and sobering read by Ottawa author Mark Bourrie on all the ways in which freedom of the press and expression have been anything but “cherished” in the prevailing political climate in Canada this past decade.

The Tyee (Murray Dobbin) – Canada’s choice: Austerity or prosperity

Imagine for a moment two societies living side by side. One has discovered the wheel and uses it. The wheel makes life easier for workers and boosts the economy for everyone. Prosperity reigns. The society next door is well aware of the wheel and watches as its neighbours move inexorably ahead, becoming wealthier, more efficient and healthier while creating more leisure time for cultural activities…..

While Canada is not exactly a next door neighbour to Norway and other Scandinavian countries, there is no excuse for not knowing and emulating the proven success of those nations. What’s their open secret? Replace the wheel in this story with robust government engagement in the economy and you have pretty much all you need to understand about why Norway, Sweden and Denmark are doing so well economically and socially. And why Canada is destined for inexorable decline.

G&M – We can all take some credit for helping the rich get richer
(The issue is not the economy, it is income inequality.)

….in Mr. Mackenzie’s latest report prepared for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Canada’s top 100 CEOs – the top .01 per cent, by the way – made an average of $9.2-million in 2013, while all of Canada’s beloved hard-working average middle class earned – not “made,” earned – on average $47,358. So the Big Boys made – not necessarily earned – 195 times more than normal folk. Fifteen years earlier, CEOs made “only” 105 times as much. Way back in the dark ages, in the 1980s, executives – who seemed pretty well off then – made about 40 times more than the average worker. So there’s been an exponential increase in the disparity between them and the rest of us in a pretty short period of time.

Huff Post – Mercer: Harper Doesn’t Care What The Provinces Have To Say

Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders will meet at the end of the month. Stephen Harper won’t be there.   Rick Mercer suggests that’s because the PM prefers to spend his time catching up on episodes of the “Murdoch Mysteries” and because he simply isn’t interested in the type of dialogue that leads to “solutions” and “nation building.”

As a leader, the other thing you must never do is engage in frank talk with people who have been elected to represent every part of the nation,” Mercer said in his rant Tuesday night. “It’s that kind of thinking that lead to the creation of Canada in the first place. ”

FOREIGN FOLLIES AND HARPER’S BLUNDERING BARD, ER….BAIRD

Vancouver Observer – Harper preaches pushback against Islamists, and sells weapons to the Middle East

Only days before the murderous assault on Charlie Hébdo staff in Paris by heavily armed men claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to support the global Arms Trade Treaty, which came into force on Christmas Eve, 90 days after the 50th nation ratified it.

While doing so, Harper also facilitated more Canadian arms sales this past year than previous governments have ever sanctioned – a $14.8 billion contract over 10 years to sell Light Armored Vehicles (LAV III) made in Ontario.   They are being assembled at a branch plant of US-based General Dynamics, the sixth largest arms manufacturer in the world, with sales of over $31 billion in 2012.

Embassy – Baird ordered foreign aid cut be labelled ‘surplus’

Foreign Minister John Baird quietly ordered his department to cut millions of dollars out of a foreign aid program last year and to call the cut a “surplus,” because he had decided his own diplomats were not being smart enough with the money, his office says.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, which gives money to foreign community groups for projects addressing democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law and other social development issues, spent $7.8 million less than expected in 2013-14, according to a public accountability report from that time. But the report does not explain why—only that there were “unused funds.”

Globe and Mail – Harper postpones Three Amigos summit amid chilly relations with U.S. and Mexico

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has postponed the North American leaders’ summit with U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a time when relations with both leaders are chilly.

The unexpected move allows Mr. Harper to avoid an awkward side-by-side news conference with Mr. Obama at a February summit that all three governments were expecting would be dominated by the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline – now at the top of the political agenda in Washington.

Toronto Star – Stephen Harper misled Canadians about Iraq role, opposition says
Revelations that Canadian soldiers in Iraq have seen front-line action is sparking renewed debate about the mission as opposition leaders say Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not come clean about the true role of the troops.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair on Tuesday point-blank accused Harper of misleading Canadians, saying the revelations that soldiers have been directing airstrikes and even exchanged gunfire with extremists calls into question the government’s promise of a “non-combat” mission.

“He told Canadians they would not be involved in combat. He did not tell the truth,” Mulcair said.

MORE FISCAL FOOLERY

ipolitics – The deficit, the tax cuts — and a PM who can’t shoot straight

Prime Minister Harper looked into his magic mirror back in the fall and decided the time was right to announce major tax cuts. And as in 2008, he has once again demonstrated his bent for letting wishful thinking infect his fiscal forecasts.

CBC News – EI surplus called unfair to unemployed

In 2014 the EI program posted an estimated $3.4 billion surplus. Similar surpluses are forecasted for 2015 and 2016 while premium rates remain frozen.

Lori MacKay of the Coalition for a Fair EI told CBC News the surpluses show government changes to EI have gone too far, and said that Ottawa is balancing its budget on the backs of the unemployed.

CTV News – Brain drain, staff cuts blamed for dysfunctional DND purchasing

OTTAWA — A study of Canada’s dysfunctional military procurement system became a political football Wednesday as opposition parties pounced on the premise that delays and miscues were due in part to the Harper government’s own policies.

The report, entitled “Putting the ‘Armed’ Back into the Canadian Armed Forces,” was written jointly by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

Critics say it will be hard for the Conservatives to dismiss the exhaustive analysis, which is based on more than 50 confidential interviews and a workshop with retired and currently serving acquisition officials, political staff and consultants.

Huffington Post – CPP Disability Benefits Denied To 60% Of Applicants, Among Highest Rejection Rates in World

About 60 per cent of CPP disability claimants are initially turned down — one of the highest rejection rates for a disability insurance program among the nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Claims are denied due to everything from insufficient paperwork to a lack of proper medical and employability information.

Michael Prince, a public policy professor at the University of Victoria and vocal critic of efforts to streamline the social security appeal process, said it makes no sense why so many Canadians are being turned down.

ipolitics – Please don’t confuse Peter MacKay with facts

In a recent response to questions posed by Liberal justice critic Sean Casey, the government confirmed that, under the Harper government, the Department of Justice research budget has been slashed by almost $3 million, or 60 per cent.

Justice research contracts have decreased by over 90 per cent — from $450,000 in 2010 to a mere $41,000 in 2014 — and the number of full-time legal researchers was cut from 34 to 18 over the same period.

The purported justification for cuts was budgetary. However, according to an internal government report, the Justice Department’s research budget was actually slashed because its findings “may run contrary to government direction” and “at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions.”

Huffington Post – Solitary Confinement In Canada: Groups Sue Federal Government
(More of our taxes going towards defending flawed Harper government policy)

On Monday, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada launched a lawsuit against the federal government for the use of administrative segregation in Canadian prisons, saying the practice violates prisoners’ charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

“Indefinite solitary confinement has been classified by the United Nations as torture. It’s been called by the Canadian Human Rights Commission cruel and unusual punishment. There’s been study after study saying that this needs to be eliminated,” said Josh Paterson, the association’s executive director.

 NOT SO FREE TRADE

Toronto Star – Canada being sued for billions under NAFTA investor protections
(Expect more of this under CETA and the Canada-China FIPA)

The private owner of the Detroit-Windsor bridge is suing Canada for billions under NAFTA, one of many legal cases cited in a new study on corporations’ growing use of investor protection measures to challenge the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments.

Michigan billionaire Matty Moroun, owner of the existing bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit, is claiming damages from Ottawa in connection with Canada’s plan to help build a second bridge linking Ontario to Michigan at Detroit.

Moroun, whose bridge company opposes the Canadian project, claims Canada’s handling of the pre-construction phase of the proposed new bridge has violated his firm’s right under NAFTA provisions to be treated no differently than a Canadian company. In an initial filing, Moroun’s company asked a NAFTA arbitration tribunal for $3.5 billion in damages from Ottawa.

HARPER’S FIENDS, ER…FRIENDS

G&M – Courts freeze assets in fraud case linked to ex-McGill health boss
(Update on Arthur Porter, the man Harper appointed to oversee Canada’s spy agency.)

Quebec courts have frozen millions of dollars in property and bank accounts in the fraud and bribery case linked to Arthur Porter and the construction of a billion-dollar Montreal hospital, newly released court documents reveal…..

Crown prosecutor Paul Mercier says the Quebec agency charged with seizing the proceeds of crime has tracked down and frozen $17.5-million of the $22.5-million allegedly stolen.

Dozens of accounts in Switzerland, Sierra Leone, Liechtenstein, Israel, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States are on ice, along with property in St. Kitts-Nevis and the Bahamas. Properties in Michigan and Florida caught in the freeze were purchased for Dr. Porter’s daughters.

The allegations, which one police investigator has described as the largest corporate corruption case in Canadian history, have not been tested in court.

CBC – Arthur Porter, ex-McGill hospital director, to be extradited from Panama
(This is the guy that Harper appointed to oversee Canada’s spy agency.)

Panama and Canada have reached an agreement for the extradition of former McGill University Health Centre director Arthur Porter, according to Radio-Canada.

SRC has confirmed from a source that a deal was reached but no date has been set for him to be sent back to Canada. He has been in a Panamanian jail since May 2013 when he was arrested at the Panama airport on an international warrant. Porter is being extradited to Canada to face the corruption charges against him.

VETERANS

CBC News – Advocate Keith Neville ordered to stop work with veterans’ appeals

A veterans’ advocate in Whitney Pier said he’s been told by the federal government he can no longer help former military members navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Keith Neville has successfully advocated for 48 veterans having their cases heard by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which provides veterans and other applicants with an independent avenue of appeal for disability decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Hill Times – O’Toole has ‘traditional’ view on advocacy but veterans and how they advocate have changed, says CVA
(New name on the departmental letterhead, same old attitude.)

An injured veterans advocate who was excluded from a federal veterans advisory group by the former Veterans Affairs minister says newly appointed Minister Erin O’Toole was wrong to impose the same measure against outspoken veterans advocate Michael Blais by cutting his advocacy group from the stakeholders committee.

“He’s been a member of the committee,” veterans advocate Don Leonardo told The Hill Times on Monday. “If you want to control the message that’s being sent to veterans or to Canadians, maybe you should invite him inside the room and debate him inside behind the closed doors.”

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

 Globe and Mail – Research into controversial topics hurt by Conservative grant priorities

Canadian universities are shying away from research into such controversial topics as immigration and assisted suicide because of the federal Conservative government’s continued focus on matching research grants to corporate interests, experts and advocates say.

Overall funding has dipped about 6 per cent in the past eight years for all three federal granting councils – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – according to federal budget data provided by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

Vancouver Observer – Harper government reacts to NASA’s “hottest year on record” statement

The Harper government, seeking to extend its 10-year reign in power in an election this year, said its “balanced sector-by-sector regulatory” approach to reducing emissions is working.  

The trouble is, her staff at Environment Canada have forecast the country’s global warming emissions to rise significantly with the growth in Canada’s oil and gas sector. The department reported in December that it predicts Canada will have no chance of meeting its Copenhagen target for reducing emissions by 17 per cent by 2020.

SFU climate economist Mark Jaccard also said most of Canada’s downward force in emissions was due to Ontario’s move to close coal-fired power plants — not the Harper government’s efforts, he suggested Wednesday.

 

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