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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Harper Watch – January 1 to 11, 2015


COMMENTARY

iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Canada on fast track to a not-so-benign dictatorship
True to his word, Stephen Harper has transformed the country, largely by stealth. Canada is now a nation that spies on its friends, guests and citizens. It accepts foreign intelligence even when there is a likelihood that it was obtained by torture.

The government lies to the electorate on policy matters. It accuses veterans of exaggerating their injuries in order to take the taxpayer for a ride. It washes its hands of any stake in the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It does not practise unite-and-lead politics, but divide-and-conquer stratagems. A government, by any democratic measure, in disgrace.

Yet have you noticed that almost all of the mainstream media look-aheads do not include the baggage of the Harper record as any kind of liability going into an election? Running for re-election used to be like going to school. You put in your year, did your work, and at the end of a testing process, others decided if you had earned promotion to the next grade.

G&M (Gerald Caplan) – Why won’t Ottawa help Gaza’s children?

Good for the Harper government for facilitating the secret talks between a pigheaded Washington and Cuba’s geriatric “communist” dictatorship. Despite the widespread demoralization within the Department of Foreign Affairs, its officials, backed by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister John Baird, demonstrated to the world exactly what kind of role Canada is capable of playing on the world stage.

Does this mean the government has finally come to its senses and decided to reflect the values most Canadians have long cherished? After all, in his Christmas message, Stephen Harper emphasized that Canada was “a compassionate country” known around the world for “protecting the vulnerable,” and asked his fellow Canadians “to show kindness to the less fortunate.” This is not exactly how the government has normally rallied its base. Is there hope for a Harperland change of heart at this late date?

Alas no. Not, at least, if it means enabling 100 severely-injured children from Gaza to come to Canada for medical care.

G&M (Jeffrey Simpson) – Iran bashers display a dangerous lack of worldliness
(Finally a commentator who does not parrot the line that Harper is a statesmen.  Harper practices polarizing politics both domestically and on the international stage.)

The potentially most consequential negotiations in the world this year will centre on Iran’s nuclear program…..

Critics of the negotiations – led by Israel, of course, and the Harper government that follows Israel’s lead on all Middle East issues – insist Iran should be stripped of centrifuges and essentially of its entire capability ever to make a weapon. For the critics, it’s all or nothing, which is not how any successful negotiation ever ends.

The critics’ bottom line would mean, of course, no possible deal, which is presumably what Israel, the Israel lobby in Washington, the U.S. Republican Party and irrelevancies such as the Harper government want. Their short-term alternative is to apply even more economic sanctions on Iran, hoping that the country would bend under their weight, which is what would not at all happen.

Huffington Post – Keystone News Unsurprising After Harper Wrecked Canada’s Relationship With The U.S.
If revenge is indeed a dish that’s best served cold, the President of Cool just served up a four-star pièce de résistance for Stephen Harper. Tuesday’s announcement of Obama’s planned veto of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not have been surprising, yet when the blow came it carried a shocking intensity.

And how did things go so badly that Canada doesn’t have the heft or goodwill in Washington to add a single pipeline to a nation benoodled with them? The answer lies in the delusional hubris of Stephen Harper.

 Huffington Post – Brent Rathgeber: The 2015 Election: A Morbidly Obese Cabinet With A Singular Focus
With the addition of the Honourable Erin O’Toole as the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, the current federal cabinet has ballooned to 40 members, tying the largest cabinet in Canadian history–that of also “conservative” Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney.

Removing Julian Fantino from the troubled portfolio was both necessary and long overdue; what is unclear (yet very clear) to me was the necessity of making up a new position for him–Associate Minister of National Defence, purportedly just to keep him in cabinet.

ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT

CBC – Canada 150 ad costs rising but no plans in sight

Talk about an expensive birthday party invitation.  Recently released federal spending figures show advertising promoting Canada’s 150th birthday — two years from now — has cost nearly $12 million, so far….

Liberal heritage critic Stéphane Dion said the ad buy seems like a case of the government seeking to burnish its image. While they’re running ads, they’ve yet to unveil any actual events to mark the milestone, he said. “It’s a manipulative government and they blur the line between governmental information and partisan ads,” he said.

Ottawa Citizen – Veterans Affairs alleges some ex-soldiers exaggerating their injuries
 The Veterans Affairs department says some veterans are exaggerating their injuries to continue receiving financial benefits from the government and to avoid joining the work force.

The explosive allegation is contained in a recent internal report on a Veterans Affairs rehabilitation program designed to help injured ex-soldiers transition to civilian life, which found thousands of veterans are staying in the program much longer than anticipated — or not finishing it at all.

National Post – Two weeks in and the Canadian military is having difficulty finding targets in Iraq
(This article gives estimates of the cost of operating the CF18s at 19,605 PER HOUR.  Wouldn’t our money and efforts be more effectively spent providing aid to refugees as Justin Trudeau has said.)

Two weeks into Canada’s six-month mission in Iraq, the Canadian Forces is having a hard time finding Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) targets to destroy.

Col. Daniel Constable, the mission’s commander in Kuwait, acknowledged the problem Thursday as he provided more details about a Canadian airstrike Tuesday that destroyed an ISIS artillery piece and killed an unknown number of militants.

The attack was the second since six CF-18s, two Canadian military Aurora surveillance aircraft and a Polaris refuelling plane began participating in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS on Oct. 30.

68: Sorties, or missions, flown by Canadian aircraft as part of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS since Oct. 30
46: Sorties flown by the six CF-18s fighter jets
$19,605: Cost per hour of operating a CF-18
4 to 6: Estimated hours per sortie
$3.6-million to $5.4-million: Estimated cost of the CF-18 sorties

The Globe and Mail – Tory policy? Big Business isn’t feeling the love

A potent symbol of that tension was the legislation introduced at year’s end, requiring companies to “justify” price differentials between Canada and the U.S. The Competition Bureau is authorized to collect confidential corporate financial data to facilitate this comparison. Few believe the Bureau has either the desire or the resources to investigate prices in any meaningful way, and it will have no power to do anything about “unjustified” price gaps in any event. Moreover, the only reason such gaps exist – a substantially overvalued Canadian currency – is disappearing before our eyes. So the legislation is pure theatre.

But the very idea of a big central government seizing confidential business information, and demanding that prices meet some moral criteria (rather than supply and demand), sparked anger across the business community (not to mention ridicule from economists). If a Liberal or NDP government ever tried this, business would be crying that the barbarians were at the gate.

Maclean’s – Stephen Harper: Oil’s worst enemy

Instead of convincing critics Canada could be trusted to develop a carbon-intensive resource in a sustainable fashion, Ottawa instead boasted about Canada’s “emerging energy superpower” status, lashed out at environmentalists and thumbed its nose at international climate change efforts, painting a target on the industry’s back in the process.

Just a few weeks ago, Harper stood in the House of Commons and called the idea of federal emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector “crazy” when crude prices are falling (not that he was a fan when they were soaring). This while Canada and other countries were supposed to be laying groundwork for a global emissions deal during a climate change conference in Lima, Peru.

“I can’t understand how he could be so careless with the oil industry, particularly the oil sands,” says David Anderson, a former Liberal environment minister. He argues that, in the case of Keystone XL, the federal government has allowed the project to become a poster child for climate change just as Obama is “trying to create an environmental legacy for himself in his last two years.”

INFORMATION MISMANAGEMENT 

Ottawa Citizen – Harper, the message and Canadian democracy

In his new book, Kill The Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know, Ottawa author and longtime Press Gallery member Mark Bourrie takes a hard look at the Conservative government’s control over information and, among many other examples, gagging of the bureaucracy. Bourrie spoke to CHRIS COBB about what he sees as a major threat to Canada’s democracy. 

Toronto Star – Tory government using publicity agency to create, distribute news
The Conservative government has been using a publicity agency to create and distribute government-approved news items to community newspapers, television and radio stations.

The federal government has a standing offer — worth up to $1.25 million annually — with News Canada Ltd., which provides content free and without copyright to editors through its website.

The articles must be credited to News Canada, but there is usually nothing in the so-called news articles or television and radio scripts that would explicitly let readers or viewers know it is sponsored content.

Blacklock’s Reporter – Feds Run News Blacklist, Ban Employee Access To Website
A federal agency banned public employees from accessing news stories at Blacklock’s Reporter via government internet servers, documents confirm. Confidential records show Shared Services Canada imposed the government-wide blackout on website access by hundreds of thousands of staff. Files on the blacklisting were obtained through Access To Information.

Shared Services Canada offered no explanation. A 218-page file detailing the ban is heavily censored and conceals email messages in which Shared Services staff discuss the action in messages headed, “Block Domain: Blacklocks.ca”.

ENVIRONMENTAL MISMANAGEMENT 

Vancouver Observer – Stephen Harper continues to make Canada into an international environmental pariah

Once again, showing contempt for international standards and principles, Stephen Harper has turned his back on a shared global norm.

In a stunning display of contrarian behaviour, the Canadian government refused, at the September, 2013 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to enhance protection for 76 plants and animal species under threat. Documents revealing this action have only just come to light.

MISMANAGEMENT AD NAUSEUM… 

The Globe and Mail – One-third of social security tribunal members have ties to Conservatives

A third of the Conservative government’s appointees to its critically backlogged social security tribunal have close ties to the party, despite Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s insistence that he’s avoided patronage appointments.

An analysis obtained by The Canadian Press has found that 32 of 96 tribunal members, including four recent appointees, have either donated to the party, run as Conservative candidates or worked for a Tory candidate.

Testifying before a parliamentary committee late last year, Kenney suggested the 11,000-case backlog, mostly involving those seeking Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, was partly the result of a “rigorous pre-screening process” for tribunal members that required a 12-month vetting period.

“We have taken the patronage dimension of this out of the system,” Kenney also told the committee.

Toronto Star – Ottawa defends errors in immigration processing

Over a quarter of the employees at immigration’s centralized processing centre are casual workers or students, officials say following a Star story.

More than a quarter of the employees at immigration’s centralized processing centre are casual workers or students, says Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

“The vast majority of these employees perform administrative support functions of application processing across all citizenship and immigration business lines and are not direct decision-makers, department spokesperson Nancy Chan wrote in an email Tuesday.

The department was responding to an exclusive story in the Star this week about the “high error rate” in immigration application processing identified in the government’s own internal reviews.

The Globe and Mail – Science shouldn’t be all business

What the Prime Minister announced was not really a science strategy, but a business strategy – and a short-sighted, self-serving one at that. The implicit premise is that all you need to do is drop a few bucks in this magic machine called “science” and out the other end comes profit and jobs.

Innovation cannot be generated (and measured) with a simple, linear equation in which research begets technology, technology begets innovation and innovation begets jobs. But universities and funding bodies have taken to promoting this simplistic formula in the belief that it’s the only way to extract funding from simple-minded politicians, and government has made it one of the cornerstones of its economic policy.

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.

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Harper Watch – December 17 to 31, 2014


Happy New Year 2015 Harper Watchers!  Let’s hope and pray and work hard to make 2015 the last year of Harper government rule!

COMMENTARY

MUST WATCH VIDEO!
(Some shocking tidbits here, not included in Michael Harris’ book “Party of One”)Michael Harris at Unifor Ontario Regional Council, November 2014

CBC News – Stephen Harper’s comments on missing, murdered aboriginal women show ‘lack of respect’

In a span of a week, the Conservative government confirmed their feelings of indifference, disregard and utter lack of respect for indigenous people.  It seems that their contempt is solely aimed at First Nation men, First Nation women, and First Nation girls.

This is the very attitude that underlies the government legislation and (non) actions that have resulted in tragic consequences suffered by First Nation people for generations.

National Post – Greenspan & Doob: Stephen Harper’s scary crime bluster

“All convicted criminals belong behind bars.”

We know of no person knowledgeable about criminal justice in any democratic society who has ever proposed imprisonment for all convicted offenders. But earlier this month, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, who oversees our penitentiaries, bluntly told Parliament that “Our Conservative government believes that convicted criminals belong behind bars.” No qualifications, no exceptions.

An opposition MP understandably replied, “Mr. Speaker, that is scary to hear.” Scary? It’s more than scary. It is hard to imagine such a statement being made by someone who supposedly has knowledge about crime and the criminal justice system.

The Chronicle Herald – EDITORIAL: EI backlog leaves Canadians in lurch

People buy insurance to have a safety net in an emergency.

With federal Employment Insurance, of course, it’s usually not optional — most working Canadians must pay EI premiums — but the basic concept is the same. If someone loses his job, EI is supposed to kick in after a couple of weeks to help pay the bills until that person can find alternative employment.

That means the federal government has a tremendous duty of care to ensure the EI system is functioning as expected. Legitimate claimants who’ve paid into the system expect — indeed, count on — the program to work when needed. Discovering it doesn’t can inflict real damage in people’s lives.

Ottawa has clearly failed to fulfil that duty. The number of Canadians having to wait more than four weeks for a decision on their EI claims last year climbed above 90,000, our Ottawa Bureau Chief Paul McLeod reported Friday.

Toronto Star – Canadian criminal justice meets ghost of Christmas past

Equal justice for all is the most basic principle of a fair legal system. But for the poor who can’t afford to hire good lawyers, raise bail or pay for fines imposed as punishment, the criminal justice system is anything but equal. That inequality has now been made even worse by the imposition of mandatory victim surcharges as an additional fine on people convicted of crimes.

Globe and Mail – What’s the holdup on Syrian refugees?

The numbers speak for themselves. About 190,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians. More than 10 million Syrians have been displaced, and nearly 11 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria.

What about Canada? A recently released government document says that as of Nov. 13, 457 Syrian refugees have landed in Canada, out of 1,300 pledged by Jason Kenney as immigration minister in 2013. And despite sincere overtures of concern and promises to act on larger numbers by Mr. Kenney’s successor, Chris Alexander, an official announcement has yet to materialize. At a Geneva conference on Syrian refugees held by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last week, Canada declined to make any new commitments.

Vancouver Observer – Stephen Harper position on global Arms Trade Treaty reads like a page out of NRA handbook

The global Arms Trade Treaty, brokered through the United Nations in a lengthy process, came into effect this Christmas Eve, 2014, 90 days after the 50th nation had ratified it. Canada has refused to sign or ratify this landmark agreement, which will begin to stem the vast tide of armaments, from pistols to rocket launchers to tanks, which sweeps over the world every day. Most arms come from rich industrial nations like Canada and the US and go to poor countries with undemocratic governments.

On the same day the treaty came into force, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird issued a written statement ….First, Baird contends that ‘Canada already has some of the strongest export controls in the world”, implying we’re very careful who we sell arms to.  Then Baird adds a line that could have come straight out of the National Rifle Association’s PR handbook: “It is important that such a treaty should not affect lawful and responsible firearms owners nor discourage the transfer of firearms for recreational uses such as sport shooting and hunting.”

NASTY ALEXANDER

Toronto Star – Ottawa hiking citizenship fees for second time in a year

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander announced Wednesday the fee to apply for citizenship will increase to $530 per person on Jan. 1 A year ago it was $100.

Starting Jan. 1, Ottawa will raise the citizenship application fee — the second time in less than a year — to $530 per adult, making Canadian citizenship further out of reach for many of marginalized communities.

WASTED DOLLARS

National Post – Tories have spent millions in taxpayer funds on Facebook ads targeting Canadians

New government documents show Ottawa has spent $5.8-million on Facebook ads since 2006 targeting Canadians of various age groups and demographics.

Many of the ads from government departments and agencies were to promote programs and services, but the federal Liberals argue there’s also abuse of taxpayer dollars for partisan advertising.

“No government has done more quasi-partisan advertising on the taxpayers’ dime than these Conservatives,” said Scott Brison, finance critic for the federal Liberals, which requested the information through Parliament. “The sole objective of government advertising under the Conservatives has been to promote the Conservatives, not government programs.”

ELECTION FRAUD

Canada.com – Activist group ask prosecutors to find ringleaders behind Pierre Poutine call

The Council of Canadians has filed a complaint with the Public Prosecution Service over the Crown’s move to seek a longer sentence for robocall culprit Michael Sona while the “ringleaders of the election fraud campaign” remain at large.

“If the gravity of the offence is sufficient to warrant a more serious sentence it warrants a more serious investigation to find the perpetrators who are still at large,” says the letter, which is signed by chairperson Maude Barlow and executive director Garry Neil.

CBC News – ProxiVote complaint triggers preliminary review by ethics watchdog

The federal ethics watchdog has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Conservative MPs Rob Clarke and Rod Bruinooge may have breached House conflict of interest rules by voting to drop a longstanding ban on the use of smartphones, tablets and other communications devices at polling stations.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has determined that there are sufficient grounds to begin an initial review of the file after receiving an official request for an inquiry from Liberal MP Scott Simms earlier this week.

Ottawa Citizen – Majority of Canadians worried about potential voter fraud, study finds
(The title of this article is inaccurate – people are worried about ELECTION fraud, not VOTER fraud)
Many Canadians are heading to the polls in 2015 worried about the potential for the “illegal manipulation” of their votes, and showing as little trust in elections as people in some Latin American countries.

A survey of 26 countries in the Americas found that Canadians’ trust in elections is relatively weak, with only one in five (21 per cent) expressing “strong trust” in elections. An equal proportion (22 per cent) have little or no trust, with 57 per cent in the middle, showing “some” trust.

THE CONS AND THE COURTS

Globe and Mail – Tories appoint two conservative law professors as judges

Justice Minister Peter MacKay has appointed two of the country’s most conservative law professors as judges in Ontario, one of whom has publicly criticized the court he is about to join.

The appointments come in a year when Ottawa has faced controversy over judicial appointments, and for suspending parliamentary hearings into new Supreme Court judges.

Edmonton Journal – Ottawa wrong to ram through omnibus budget bills: judge
Ottawa should have consulted with First Nations before introducing the two omnibus bills that helped spark the widespread 2012 Idle No More protests, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Alberta’s Mikisew Cree First Nation took the Government of Canada to court over the bills. Their win will not affect the legislation that is already in effect, but it requires governments to seek input from affected First Nations in the future before the bills pass.

THE VETERANS’ TRAVESTY  

Huffington Post – Fantino: Not tough enough for Veterans Affairs

In 2004, media noted his “chilling legacy” as Toronto’s police chief during which “Julian Fantino’s arrogance and aggression unravelled [the] city’s social weave.”  His “thin-skinned” and “vindictive” nature back then erupted ten years later to national attention.While cameras rolled, Fantino contemptuously brushed off frail, aging and desperate veterans who waited almost two hours for the minister on a cold January day. By means of an insincere apology, Fantino accused the veterans of being “union dupes.”  Fleeing on camera from the wife of a disabled veteran four months later only confirmed his disdain for dialogue with those in need.

Calgary Sun (!) – Canadian Forces veterans decry Calgary MP claims that they’re content with their treatment by Ottawa

“Any veteran will tell you the same thing,” she said.  “I talk to veterans individually and they say they’re treated wonderfully. I invite you to ask them.”

Soon after, the Sun received a deluge of calls from veterans — like Mike Blais of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy — most expressing disbelief over Crockatt’s comments and anger about Ottawa’s handling of their cases.

“I think she’s delusional, after all the press and the abandonment by Minister Fantino,” said army vet Blais, referring to Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.

IN-CON-PETENCE

National Newswatch – Harper, PCO approved long hiring process for social security tribunal

Critics question why PCO would have designed such a lengthy screening process to begin with, and why Harper agreed to it. Former adjudicators under the old system say they were brought on board in a much shorter period of time.

“Approving a 15-month hiring process for an organization that would open in six months shows the government had little concern about the fact that it would leave thousands of vulnerable Canadians in an appalling and completely unnecessary situation,” Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner said Wednesday.

CBC News – Nutrition North food subsidy program: What went wrong

For years, northerners have complained about Nutrition North to anyone who would listen, grumbling that the $60-million annual federal food subsidy was doing little to ease their staggering grocery costs.

No one, it seemed, took much notice.

That all changed last month, when auditor general Michael Ferguson revealed that the program’s overseers are largely in the dark about whether the subsidy is doing anything for the people who need it the most.

FUNDING FRACAS

CBC News – Canada Science and Technology Museum asked for roof funding in 2010

The closed Canada Science and Technology Museum had been asking the federal government for years to help fix a leaky roof whose “lifecycle had come to an end,” according to documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request.

The museum, which closed in September after leaks in the roof led to unsafe levels of mould in the air, had communicated its desire for a new roof at its 50-year-old Ottawa location as early as 2010.

National Post – Its funding may have been eliminated, but that didn’t stop a Canadian satellite from co-discovering new planet

A suitcase-sized Canadian satellite whose funding has been eliminated by the Canadian Space Agency has co-discovered a new planet in another solar system.

The MOST space telescope, just 65 centimetres wide and 25 deep, also confirmed the planet is 2.5 times bigger than Earth, and is probably mostly water or ice.

The discovery comes just as the Canadian Space Agency is winding up all funding for MOST, which must now operate as a rent-a-telescope.

CBC News – Alternatives, foreign-aid charity, faces closure after Revenue Canada audit
Alternatives and 52 other charities have been caught in a net created by the 2012 federal budget, when the Harper government gave the revenue agency millions of dollars to audit the political activities of key charities. The initiative coincided with provocative comments by cabinet ministers painting environmental groups as “radicals” and “money launderers.”

Toronto Star – Ottawa’s manufacturing fund a mirage

(The Harper government is very good at making funding announcements but as for actually following up with funds, not so much. Ontario manufacturers join the Veterans and a host of international aid organizations in the queue for funds announced but not delivered.) 

There is a $200-million pot of money in Ottawa earmarked for Ontario’s hard-hit manufacturing sector. The Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF) was announced in February 2013 by then-finance minister Jim Flaherty. It was officially launched last December by Minister of State Gary Goodyear, who speaks for Ontario in cabinet. It was cited by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April at a forum hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge chambers of commerce as proof of his government’s efforts to promote the province’s economic growth. It has been re-announced by various cabinet ministers.

To date, not a single project has been approved. Not one dollar has been released. Not one job has been created.

OPEN AND TRANSPARENT – NOT 

National Post – Information czar investigating whether government refusing to release data in easy-to-read, digital formats

The federal information commissioner is investigating multiple cases where it appears that government departments aren’t releasing data in easy-to-read formats, even though the law requires it.

The ongoing investigations, which are prompted by complaints from requesters, comes as the federal minister who oversees the access-to-information regime suggested some data couldn’t be released in easy-to-read formats, such as spreadsheets, over fears people may post “corrupt” information.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Treasury Board President Tony Clement couldn’t identify any incident where government information had been falsified. Neither could information commissioner Suzanne Legault’s office.

“We are not aware of any incidents where datasets were manipulated in order to falsify data,” said Legault spokeswoman Natalie Hall. 

iPolitics – Trudeau promises he’d be accessible PM, unmuzzle bureaucrats, ministers
Harper’s approach to communications makes for bad decisions and an unhealthy democracy, Trudeau said in a year-end interview that included his most thorough comments to date on what kind of standards he would set for communications. “First of all, it breaks down the kind of trust that should exist between citizens and their government, whether it’s through blocking access to information, an unwillingness to actually share data or evidence justifying various decisions, reliance on talking points,” he told The Canadian Press.

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Harper Watch, December 1 to December 16, 2014


COMMENTARY

ipolitics – Christopher Waddell: The Harper government is killing Access to Information — slowly
So that’s how you do it.
Since its introduction in 1983, both Liberal and Conservative governments — usually supported by federal bureaucrats — have slowly but surely frustrated the workings of Canada’s Access to Information system. But it’s the current Conservative government that finally got the whole access system in what could turn out to be a fatal chokehold.
It has taken time and planning to accomplish, but — as it has demonstrated with other files — the Harper government is prepared to play a long game if it’s confident the end result meets its objectives.

Toronto Star – Finance Department now a fact-free zone
The measure, announced in September, offers reductions in employment insurance premiums to the smallest of small businesses and is aimed at getting them to create jobs although they’re not required to create a single job to get the money. It’s a gift to the government’s most loyal special interest group, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whose president attended the announcement and waxed lyrical about the benefits of the cut.
According to Oliver, the measure will create 25,000 person-years of employment. How does he know that? Why, the CFIB told him so.
When asked by an opposition MP if the government had done its own analysis of the plan, particularly in light of estimates from the parliamentary budget office that the measure will create a mere 1,000 jobs, Oliver said the department hadn’t bothered to do its own analysis because the CFIB had already done the work.

ipolitics – Linda McQuaig: Why the robocalls conspiracy will happen again — quietly
If you’re a low-level political operative, the conviction of Conservative party staffer Michael Sona for his role in the robocall scandal may well have deterred you from committing voter fraud in the future.
But if you’re a high-level political operative, the outcome of Sona’s trial probably left you emboldened.
With a federal election looming, the stage is set for more voter fraud. But this time there’s very little chance we’ll ever find out about it, due to changes the Conservatives have made in Canada’s election laws.

Huffington Post – Harper’s Secret Budget Cuts Undermine Canada’s Democracy: Colin Kenney, Senator
The Harper government has made no secret of its intention to tighten Canada’s fiscal belt over the last several years.
It involves federal organizations grossly underspending their close-to-the-bone budgets without providing any explanation to taxpayers.
In 2013-14, $7.1 billion in approved funding went unspent across government. The figure was $10.1 billion the previous year.

These “lapsed funds,” as the government calls them, result in diminished programs and services for the Canadian people.

The Chronicle Herald – Editorial: Disgraceful treatment of would-be disability pensioners
The Harper government’s failure to deal in a timely, compassionate way with the disability benefit claims of thousands of Canadians is a disgrace.
The Canadian Press reported Monday that some 11,000 people are waiting, some of them for years, to find out whether Ottawa will reverse decisions to deny them Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits.
The Conservatives replaced the Pension Appeals Board and the appeal process for Employment Insurance with the Social Security Tribunal in 2013.

Toronto Star – Commentary: Stephen Harper government confuses science for mere opinion
The current government has repeatedly proclaimed its belief in the importance of scientific evidence.
What then are we to make of the recent comments from Department of Environment Parliamentary Secretary Colin Carrie? In an interview on Global’s West Block, he was asked to comment on the recent analysis by Environment Canada scientists predicting that Canada would miss its 2020 Copenhagen CO2 emission target by about 20 per cent (122 megatonnes). Carrie’s response? That “everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”

Maclean’s – Paul Wells: Harper and the oil patch: Honesty is the only policy
Back then, it was possible to believe the federal government would impose regulations on the oil and gas industries. The government certainly said it would, often enough. (Peter Kent in February, 2013: “We are now well into, and very close to finalizing, regulations for the oil and gas sector.”) But, as Chris Turner reminds us in his book The War on Science, Prentice quit as environment minister in November 2010, and the Harper government’s periodic attempts to demonstrate environmental virtue, even at some hypothetical cost to the resource sector, pretty much came to an end.

And on that note….

The Hill Times – Feds leave $321-million unspent for green programs, overspend on oil and gas research, ads
The federal government failed to spend a total of $321-million Parliament approved for “environmentally responsible” programs last year—nearly one-third of the money that was available for that purpose—while spending more than the $438-million that had been set aside to fund programs that primarily supported the oil and gas sector through scientific research, market development and government advertising.
Details of a spending report Natural Resources Canada submitted to Parliament through Treasury Board show the department did not spend, or “lapsed” in government accounting terms, a total of $298.6-million on programs for renewable energy development, alternative transportation fuels, energy efficiency and technology innovation.

FISCAL FOOLS

ipolitics – How to cook up a fiscal crisis for political gain
The most important fiscal action the Conservative government took after being elected in 2006 was to cut the GST by two points. At the time — and ever since — every credible economist in Canada said it was a bad, bad idea. With a general election less than a year away, now seems like a good time to run a ‘what-if’ scenario.
The Conservatives for years vowed that they would eliminate the deficit of $55.6 billion recorded in 2009-10 by 2015-16. And the government has been aggressively cutting government spending on programs and services since 2010. Despite recent declines in oil prices, the federal deficit will be eliminated in 2015-16 — possibly even a year earlier.
On the surface it looks like good fiscal stewardship, but the surface hides a few unsettling facts: Those program cuts weren’t necessary and the deficit could have been eliminated earlier. And it all comes back to that bad, bad idea.

CALLOUS CONS

CANADA 1867 Blog – Callous Conservatives
(An excellent summary of many of the callous acts performed by the Harper Government)
“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.”
This remark was courtesy of Conservative Minister James Moore last December, as part of his response to a reporter’s questions about child poverty in British Columbia being at an all-time high.
Of course, Mr. Moore did later apologize.
Well actually, he first denied everything, saying the comment was not a quote and taken completely out of context. Then the B.C. radio station News 1130 released raw audio of the exchange between their reporter and the Tory MP; and after that, amid resounding criticism, James Moore finally issued an apology the next day.
The forced apology aside, the instinct behind Moore’s comment is emblematic of the indifference and insensitivity that has been repeatedly demonstrated by individual Conservatives and the Harper government as a whole.

Toronto Star – For Syrian refugees, it’s shame Canada: Burman
How welcoming has the Canadian government been to these Syrian refugees?
The answer: 200 people.
That is the number of Syrian refugees the Canadian government itself has sponsored for all of this year. (There have been private sponsorships, but they have been minimal.)
Canada pledged to accept 1,300 Syrians for the year 2014, but only 200 were to be government-assisted. The rest were to be sponsored and financed by private community and religious organizations, but this promise was made without genuine consultation. The unrealistic process, both costly and time-consuming, has virtually been brought to a standstill by government bureaucracy. By the end of this month, it is certain that Canada will not come close to delivering on its 2014 pledge.

Ottawa Citizen – Government faces questions about anti-Muslim bias over Syrian refugees
The Conservative government is facing renewed questions about an alleged anti-Muslim bias following revelations it wants to cherry-pick which Syrian refugees will be accepted into Canada.
Sources say the government wants to prioritize religious minorities as a condition for resettling thousands more Syrian refugees in Canada over the next two years.
But the United Nations has resisted Canada’s request, as its policy is to help the most vulnerable, no matter their religious background. This includes families led by women, torture victims and those with serious medical conditions.

CBC News – Stephen Harper rebuffs call to rescind federal torture directives
In the House of Commons, New Democrat MP Peter Julian said Tuesday the conclusion to be drawn from the American report is simple — torture doesn’t work.
However, Julian pointed out, the Canadian government has issued directives to several police and security agencies allowing them to use and share information derived using brutal methods.
The instructions give five federal agencies — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the military, Canada Border Services and the Communications Security Establishment — the go-ahead to exchange information with a foreign partner even when doing so may give rise to a substantial risk of torture.
A federal framework document obtained through the Access to Information Act outlines a “consistent process of decision making” across departments and agencies when the exchange of national-security related information puts someone at serious risk of being abused.

ipolitics – This prostitution law is about protecting votes, not women
On Dec. 6, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act received royal assent. This event was noteworthy for two reasons: It meant that the prostitution laws overturned by the Supreme Court in the Bedford case had been replaced, and they’d been replaced on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
To Conservatives, this probably seemed like a pretty slick move. After all, they’ve been selling the new legislation as the best way to protect women who are abused and made vulnerable by prostitution. What could be a better symbol than making this bill into law on the very day Canadians have set aside to support an end to violence against women?
The only problem is that sex workers – you know, the people actually affected by this new law – say that this legislation will just go back to making sex work dangerous for the people who do it. For the government to grant royal assent to this bill on December 6 was an imperious dismissal of those genuine concerns for the safety of everyone who does sex work.

Huffington Post – Government Under Fire Over Trade In Endangered Whale Meat
The Conservative government is facing tough questions about why it is allowing meat from endangered whales to be shipped across Canada.
In February, it emerged that the federal government allowed an Icelandic company to transport meat from endangered fin whales across Canada on its way to market in Japan. Twelve shipping containers of the meat arrived in Halifax and, according to Greenpeace, were transported by train to ports in British Columbia.

Vancouver Observer – Lost Canadians file petition challenging federal government’s interpretation of citizenship history
Lost Canadians are a group of legitimate Canadians who have been denied citizenship due to obscure provisions of previous laws, which discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity and marital status.
Last month, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggested the legal concept of Canadian citizenship has existed only since January 1, 1947 — the date that Canada’s Citizenship Act came into effect.
“History does not support that assertion,” Citizenship advocate Don Chapman said in a news release. “The government’s position seems to be that Canadian citizenship was created ex nihilo on Jan. 1, 1947. In fact, the term ‘Canadian citizen’ has been part of the statute law since 1910, not 1947.”

FIRST NATIONS

Vancouver Observer – First Nations: NEB Kinder Morgan process unconstitutional
Constitutional challenges seem likely if the federal government approves Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
On Friday, Squamish Chief Ian Campbell presented a letter to the Harper government outlining the process’ defects. That letter, signed by twelve First Nation leaders, stated they are “wholly dissatisfied” with the Crown’s approach to consultation and called on the Crown to develop a meaningful consultation process.
The allegations of unconstitutionality include: failure to consult about the NEB process; use of written information requests rather than live cross examination of witnesses; insufficient capacity funding; and no guidance regarding how consultation will occur following the NEB’s recommendation.

WC Native News – Canada Blocks NAFTA Investigation Into British Columbia Fish Farm Impacts on Wild Salmon
MONTREAL – A petition by tribal, fishing and conservation groups calling for an investigation into Canada’s failure to enforce laws regulating damage to wild salmon caused by aquaculture operations in British Columbia has been wrongly dismissed by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an environmental dispute body established under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico joined Canada in blocking preparation of a factual record on whether Canada is failing to enforce its federal Fisheries Act by allowing wild salmon to be exposed to disease and parasites from industrial fish farms in British Columbia. The United States supported a NAFTA inquiry, stating that the process was wrongly terminated.

Huffington Post – Bernard Valcourt Insulted Us Over Environmental Concerns: Yukon Chiefs
First Nations in Yukon say federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt insulted and dismissed them at a meeting to discuss their concerns that planned changes to environmental assessments in the territory give too much power to Ottawa.
“We came down here on the invitation of the minister to discuss this and he totally insulted our First Nations, he totally insulted our agreements and it’s like ‘business as usual. Too bad what you think,'” said Ruth Massie, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

VETERANS UNDER ATTACK

Globe and Mail – Veterans Affairs overspends on administration, falls short on benefits
Veterans Affairs allowed tens of millions of dollars in approved funding on veterans programs – such as death and disability benefits – to go unspent last year while exceeding its budget for internal services like communications.
A closer look by The Globe and Mail at the department’s line-by-line public accounts shows the biggest source of the gap – or lapse – comes from the department’s two biggest categories: the health-care program and disability and death compensation.

CBC News – Major who lost legs in IED bashes veteran benefits
A major who lost both his legs in Afghanistan says the Harper government’s financial treatment of injured war veterans is an “abject betrayal” of a new generation of soldiers.
Maj. Mark Campbell, who stepped on a bomb in June 2008 near a Canadian base west of Kandahar city, says the New Veteran’s Charter established in 2006 robs wounded soldiers of about 40 per cent of their income.
“They made the announcements last fall … for the most seriously wounded,” he said Tuesday. “When you think seriously wounded, picture Mark Campbell in your mind,” said the major, pointing to where his legs used to be.
“This is about as bad as it gets without being dead.”

Chronicle Herald – Veterans Affairs: Managers reaped rewards after cuts
OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs Canada managers made hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for cutting costs as the department shed hundreds of jobs.
In 2011-12, the department paid $343,000 to 60 managers under what appears to be a new program for “Savings/Spending Targets.” No such bonuses were given out in previous years.
Bonuses ranged from $2,376 up to $14,728, and averaged about $5,700 per person, said a departmental response to a question tabled by Sen. Percy Downe of Prince Edward Island.
The following year, $243,000 was paid out to 55 managers, an average of $4,400 each.
At the same time, the department cut hundreds of jobs. In 2010-11, Veterans Affairs had 3,708 employees. By 2013-14, the department dropped 658 jobs to 3,050 positions.

Globe and Mail – The worst part of Conservatives’ mistreatment of veterans
I know it feels that the Harper government is the most dishonest in our history. But there’s really no way of measuring such things – and it behooves the government’s critics to be evidence-based, after all – and really, it doesn’t matter whether it is actually the very worst or not. (It has some pretty tough competitors, don’t forget.) Just check out any of the websites and blogs dedicated to tracking the lies of Harperland – this beyond actual public policies – and be confident that it stands among the Olympians of Canadian political mendacity.
But last week the government finally won the gold medal for perhaps the most despicable act ever of deceit and outright lying. And wouldn’t you just know, given the Harper record, that it was Canada’s veterans they lied to.

CBC News – Vets disability branch budget slashed between 2009 and 2013, records show
Some of the biggest job cuts at Veterans Affairs in recent years have been in the disability awards branch — the division targeted in a recent auditor general’s report for taking too long to decide on the benefit claims of ex-soldiers.
Departmental performance reports stretching back to 2009 show that roughly 897 positions have been eliminated across Veterans Affairs, with 33 per cent coming out of the section that administers pensions and awards.
Those same records show the health and rehabilitation branches also took a sizable hit — roughly 372 positions during the same time frame.

SCIENCE UNDER SIEGE

Ottawa Citizen – Scientists push for ‘scientific integrity’ at bargaining table
Canada’s federal scientists are going to the bargaining table this week with an unprecedented package of contract changes to promote “scientific integrity” in government, including the right of scientists to speak freely and forbidding political interference in their work.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents more than 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, is tabling a negotiating position for managing science in the “public interest” with a list of demands for Treasury Board negotiators that dramatically push the boundaries of traditional collective bargaining in the public service.

CBC News – Scientists will be forced to knock on doors under health research grant changes
There’s a new controversy raging in Canada’s scientific community as word spreads about impending changes to the country’s major health science research organization.
In what has been called a “rebellion,” emails are flying as scientists share news about a recent decision by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Governing Council. They say it will force scientists to shop around for matching external funds before they can access public money that used to be granted with no strings attached.
The CIHR’s decisions “can only be described as top-down, secretive and disrespectful,” says Fred Wien. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)
“Part of the reason for the rebellion is that the process that the senior leadership of CIHR has used to make these decisions can only be described as top-down, secretive and disrespectful,” Fred Wien, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University wrote in a letter to colleagues.

BAD RELATIONS

Toronto Star – Stephen Harper has given cold shoulder to Kathleen Wynne for the past year
‎The cold war between Ottawa and Ontario is so bad that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spent more time with Russian President Vladimir Putin this year than Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Friday is the first anniversary of the last time the two most powerful politicians in Canada sat down together face to face.
Harper will mark the occasion by meeting in Ottawa with the leader of another sub-national jurisdiction: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Huffington Post – Paul Davis ‘Cannot Trust’ Stephen Harper, Says Rules For Fisheries Fund Changed
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday evening saying the province will not be able to access a fisheries fund link to the EU trade deal.
However, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the agreement was “never intended to be a blank cheque” something the federal government said earlier in the week.
The two have been meeting to discuss a disagreement between the provincial and federal governments on funds associated with the free trade deal with the European Union.
“I leave here very disappointed. I can tell you that it’s very clear to me that we cannot trust Stephen Harper, cannot trust this government,” Davis said, following Friday’s meeting.

Toronto Star – Provinces increasingly ignoring Stephen Harper to go their own way: Hébert
MONTREAL — From climate change to pension reform, gun control, medically-assisted death and pipelines: the list of issues on which various provinces are striking a course independent from that of Stephen Harper’s government keeps getting longer.
The latest addition is the Conservative government’s controversial prostitution law.

CBC News – Foreign workers: Microsoft gets green light from Ottawa for foreign trainees
The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without first looking for Canadians to fill the jobs.
A notice posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website says foreign workers will receive specialized training in a new human resources development centre in the province. The tech giant will not have to perform a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) — a rigorous process that would include a search for Canadians who could fill the positions.

Global News – EXCLUSIVE: Harper government quietly signed customs agreement with China
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government quietly signed a customs-sharing agreement with China without announcing it to the public, Global News has learned.
And the move has experts worried about the consequences to Canada’s security.
At the end of Harper’s trip to China in November, the government sent out a news release proudly detailing the progress made and agreements signed, including initiatives to strengthen commercial ties and increase exports.
But Harper made no mention of the agreement to share customs information with China, whereas similar agreements involving Israel and the European Union were widely disseminated.
The deal has many experts scratching their heads

TAXPAYERS FUND THE CAMPAIGN

CBC News – Ottawa’s ads called a pre-election campaign funded by taxpayers
Critics say these multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded ad campaigns that launched online and on air over the past few months appear timed for one main goal: to get Canadians to vote Conservative in the next federal election in October.
“Frankly, it’s partisan election preparation. It’s in the nature of propaganda in order to strengthen the Conservative brand in the final year before the general election,” says Mathieu Ravignat, federal NDP treasury board critic.

WHAT? CHEATING AGAIN??

CBC News – Ethics watchdog asked to investigate Tory votes on election bill
A Liberal MP is calling on the federal ethics watchdog to investigate whether two Conservative MPs with ties to a mobile campaign app violated the House conflict-of-interest code by voting on an election bill introduced by the government last spring.

In a letter sent to Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson on Monday, Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms says he is “deeply concerned” Conservative MPs Rod Bruinooge and Rob Clarke may have breached the rules that forbid MPs from using their parliamentary position to further their “personal interests.”

LOSERS AGAIN

CBC News – Federal government loses appeal to stop medical marijuana patients from growing pot at home
The Conservative government has lost its latest attempt to prevent medical marijuana users from growing pot at home, with the Federal Court of Appeal upholding an injunction that exempted patients from a massive overhaul of the system.
New rules were introduced earlier this year that prohibited home growing and instead shifted production to commercial operations, but a group of patients is challenging that regime in a case expected to be heard in the new year.
A Federal Court judge issued an injunction in the spring that allowed patients who were authorized to grow and possess marijuana under the old system to continue to do so until their case is resolved.
The government appealed, but the Appeal Court released a unanimous decision Monday upholding the injunction.

 

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