Harper Watch – April 5 to 21, 2015


COMMENTARY

iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Stephen Harper loves the smell of napalm in the morning
Going after the Ukrainian vote in Canada is one thing. But sending troops, even as trainers, into Ukraine’s “fratricidal” civil war and confronting Russia is quite another. If this thing goes sideways, he may wish he had sent diplomats instead of military advisors.  Has anyone told the PM that these are not toy soldiers he is dispatching — by the hundreds no less — but flesh and blood human beings?

This is an old story. From his opposition days, this leader has exhibited a fatal instinct to take it to the parking lot. The itchy trigger finger initially showed up in the second Iraq War. Cooler heads in the Chretien government scuppered his ill-informed bellicosity. Canada refused to join President George W. Bush’s coalition of the misguided.

Globe and Mail – Lawrence Martin: It’s not just Duffy – the Harper era is on trial
If you wanted to go into detail, you could fill an entire page of news print with the ethical transgressions of this government that have undermined the democratic process.

Huffington Post Blog – David Martin: As a Retired Public Servant, I’m Speaking Out About Government Cutbacks

A government with a hate-on for its workers doesn’t just go after those still employed; it also revels in undermining the security of its former workers: us retirees.

This year has seen the implementation of an additional roughly $500 payment for my healthcare plan. Despite protests from our retirees association and from the unions, the government effectively broke our contract and unilaterally imposed the extra charge.

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Forget Duffy, Canadians need to wake up to Harper’s true incompetence

If the Millienials need a wake up call to engage in the looming federal election, this prime minister is a walking alarm clock.

HARPER’S FAVOURITE THINGS… 

…WAR 

CBC – Canada-India uranium deal will spur proliferation, experts warn

India test-fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile Thursday, just hours after signing a deal to buy 3,000 tons of Canadian uranium.

While the terms of this week’s deal are not public, the nuclear cooperation agreement, first announced in 2010 and finalized in 2013, includes assurances that India use Canadian material for civilian purposes only.

“Canadian uranium can only be exported to facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The IAEA verifies that nuclear material is only used for strictly peaceful, non-explosive purposes,” Natural Resouces Alain Cacchione said in an email to CBC News.

But some nuclear proliferation experts say India has been able to make such a deal without abiding by the rules set out for most other countries that abide by the international non-proliferation regime. And they warn that countries the West has been attempting to bring into the rules-based system — such as Iran — will be less inclined to submit when they see the rules don’t apply to India.

 …OIL

Vancouver Observer – Mayor blames province and feds for slow response to English Bay spill

It took six hours for the Coast Guard to build a containment boom around a toxic spill at a deep-water anchorage off English Bay and 13 hours before City authorities were notified. Now the City of Vancouver has advised residents to stay away from globs of toxicity washing up on shore and 3 oiled ducks are in a rescue care unit — with growing fears that all this foreshadows an approaching catastrophe.

Mayor Robertson said this morning that efforts to contain the spill failed.

“We don’t know if this is a long term hazard. Clearly it has spread further than originally reported,” he said, and the blame, he said, lies with gaps in the coordinated response by provincial and federal government.

VanCity Buzz – Now-closed Kitsilano Coast Guard base would have responded to oil spill instantly

Two years ago, the federal government pushed forward with their decision to close down the Coast Guard base at Kitsilano despite warnings from municipal and provincial officials that such a move could jeopardize public safety.

This week’s bunker fuel oil spill in English Bay incident proved that, beyond any doubt.

Toronto Star – B.C. spill means Conservatives need a scrubbing: Harper

What is clear is that Ottawa’s so-called “world class” spill response is anything but.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark boldly called out the federal Conservatives, calling their response unacceptable and saying the province would take over the primary response role if Ottawa can’t step up.

 …RISKING LIVES TO SAVE MONEY

Global News – Funding slashed for all safety programs at Transport Canada

The Conservative government is slashing funding for all safety and security programs at Transport Canada, with a significant chunk coming out of safety oversight initiatives, planning documents show.

The amount of funding set to be clawed away varies between programs — the budget for transportation of dangerous goods is going down 32 per cent while the budget for aviation safety is dropping 9.2 per cent, for example — but all are seeing decreases, just as the wreckage of Air Canada Flight 624 was pulled off a runway in Halifax and the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic continues to rebuild.

Other programs dealing with cuts include marine safety (23 per cent), rail safety (4.3 per cent) and motor vehicle safety (8.8 per cent). All percentage differences were calculated using the department’s forecasted spending for 2014-15 and planned spending for 2015-16.

…THE DUFF…OH WAIT, MAYBE NOT ANYMORE

Weyburn Review – Crown contradicts Harper: Duffy ‘probably ineligible’ to be senator for P.E.I.

Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate in late 2008, despite the fact Duffy had lived in the Ottawa area for decades. Duffy was a well-known former TV broadcaster who went on to be featured prominently at Conservative events and in promotional materials.Later, when questions began to be raised in the media about how much time he spent in P.E.I., Harper defended Duffy’s eligibility both publicly and behind the scenes.

…ABUSING VETERANS

Toronto Star – Difficulty recruiting military psychiatrists blamed on too-low pay scale
New documents show the Canadian military found recruiting new psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers an uphill battle because the government’s top pay scale wasn’t high enough in some parts of the country.

…IGNORING ABORIGINAL RIGHTS

Red Power Media – Why Bill C-51 Is A Threat To Aboriginal Rights

In January, the federal government tabled Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. The bill has generated widespread uncertainty and concern. It fails to safeguard the dignity, human rights and security of indigenous peoples and individuals. It is inconsistent with good governance.

…IDEOLOGY

Toronto Star – Government refuses prison watchdog’s request for another full term

Ottawa is searching for a new prison ombudsman after refusing to extend the contract for the current Correctional Investigator for Canada beyond one year.

Howard Sapers, who has held the position for eleven years and been a vocal critic of the Harper government’s treatment of mentally ill and Aboriginal inmates, as well as the use of solitary confinement, was recently told he would remain on the job only until a replacement was found.

Toronto Star – Supreme Court strikes down mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes

(Another Harper law struck down in court)

In a ruling that sets back the Harper government’s tough-on-crime agenda, the top court has agreed with an earlier decision labelling the law cruel and unusual punishment.

Globe and Mail – Canada entangled by its own anti-corruption laws

The government refuses to acknowledge what many legal experts say is the fundamental problem. Eager to send a strong message that it wouldn’t tolerate corrupt suppliers, Ottawa put in place an excessively rigid and sweeping regime – rules that, on paper, are tougher than in most other developed countries.

Inexplicably, the government somehow failed to anticipate that many of its leading suppliers would be caught in its policy dragnet.

FISCAL FAIL 

iPolitics – No matter how you add it up, Harper’s fiscal record is a catastrophe

On April 8st, Finance Minister Joe Oliver stood up before the Economic Club in Toronto and delivered what can only be described as one of the greatest “fantasy economics” speeches in decades.

It was a message from a parallel universe — one in which the Harper government delivered ‘sound economic management’ through the recession (it didn’t), the economy recovered its pre-recession growth pattern (it hasn’t) and Ottawa is delivering tax relief for the average Canadian household (it isn’t). Stranger still, it’s a parallel universe where Pierre Trudeau is still around, haunting us.

In his speech, Oliver somehow contrived to blame Justin Trudeau for the alleged fiscal sins committed by his father during Trudeau Senior’s decade in power.
AlJazeera – What happened when Canada stopped counting its numbers

When a major Western country stops counting its numbers, bad things can happen.

In June 2010, the Canadian government unveiled a grand experiment in data collection. In the name of privacy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper ended the mandatory long-form census for the country and swapped it out with a voluntary survey.

Five years later, there is a mass scramble to make sense of a rapidly changing country. Despite an explosion of corporate data-mining in most nations, researchers interested in tracking poverty, immigration and public health in Canada know less and less about the country as time progresses. They’re not, for example, entirely sure if income inequality is accelerating, stagnant or closing. Across the nation there is a loud, collective uneasiness among them.

CBC News – ‘Balanced budget’ bill a political move, says former PBO Kevin Page

Former budget watchdog Kevin Page says a Conservative move to force future governments to keep balanced budgets is a “political” move that isn’t necessary.

“Do we need the legislation? We didn’t need the legislation from the mid-1990s to 2007-2008, when we had 11 years of surpluses,” Page told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon Wednesday evening.

National Post – Federal budget is now balanced, but billions in future surpluses wiped out, PBO says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the government will likely post a small deficit in 2014-15 but has promised a balanced budget on Tuesday for the new fiscal year, just months before a scheduled Oct. 19 election.

But the PBO says a combination of billions of dollars in new family tax cuts, lower oil prices and reduction of EI premiums in 2017 will effectively gobble up what was, according to the government just last fall, expected to be more than $30 billion worth of total surpluses over the next five years.

 

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Harper Watch – March 26 to April 4, 2015


COMMENTARY

National Post (John Ivison) –  Tories’ behaviour during anti-terror bill hearings borderline anti-democratic
(If Tory lover John Ivison is worried, we should be apoplectic!)

Even in the darkest days of the Second World War, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons with the latest news, good or bad, and never shrank from a vote of censure.

“I am,” he used to say, “a servant of the House of Commons.”

The great Tory leader would probably be appalled by Canada’s Conservatives, who appear to believe the acronym MP stands for Masters of Parliament, given the way they treat its institutions like whipped dogs.

The recent hearings into the anti-terror legislation were, in the words of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, “a sham.” Forty nine witnesses appeared over 16 hours but the most enduring statement was made by Conservative MP Rick Norlock, who asked Carmen Cheung of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, “Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” 

National Post (Michael Den Tandt)  – Bumbles make the once all-star Jason Kenney seem more like a reflection of Tories’ worst traits

For it has been reinforced lately, most recently Wednesday, that this minister has a potentially crippling Achilles heel; his very confidence and combativeness, coupled with instant access to social media, lead him to one snafu after another. Making matters worse, having erred, Mr. Kenney is incapable of apology. The words “I’m sorry” apparently cannot pass his lips without causing him to spontaneously combust. In this, the Defence Minister neatly personifies what ails his party as it heads into a make-or-break election; a clench-jawed refusal to admit error or consider fair criticism until the last grainery has been burned, the last well salted and the last bridge bombed.

ipolitics – Paul Adams: Keeping it simple: Canada solves the Middle East morass
The key insight of Harper Conservatism is that everything is simple. Taxes are bad. Carbon taxes are really, really bad. Iran is bad. Russia is bad. Exports are good. Oil is good. Pipelines are good, too. The military is good. Israel is good. Terrorists are bad. Islamic State are terrorists and are crazy bad. International law is bad when it gets in the way of doing what we want militarily; international law is good when it helps us sell our exports.

Liberal.ca – The Canada Pension Plan at 50!

This past February, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Red Maple Leaf Flag — one of Mr. Pearson’s proudest accomplishments.  Next year, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of national medicare, another Pearson legacy.  And this week, the legislation that originally created the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) will turn 50 years old. ….

However, the CPP/QPP are labouring under one major limitation. The maximum regular benefit a contributor can receive is just over $12,000 per year. The average is just more than half that. Those amounts are far from sufficient to ensure retirees can maintain their quality of life, without other significant savings.

Three-quarters of those working in the private sector don’t have access to an employer-sponsored pension plan. And of those who are within 10 years of retirement, fewer than one-third have $100,000 or more set aside to sustain themselves. Another third have no retirement savings at all.

While they have tinkered with various private sector pension ideas, the Harper government has not been helpful in dealing with basic retirement income insecurity.

BILL C-51

ipolitics – Harper is losing the argument on C-51 … with Conservatives

That same day, at committee hearings on the bill, Connie Fournier, founder of the former conservative online forum FreeDominion, criticized the bill’s infringements on privacy and freedom of speech. Fournier is going a step further, reviving her website to fight Bill C-51 — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I feel like we’re in some kind of alternate universe,” she recently told the Tyee. “You spend your life working for the Conservative party, and the Conservative party finally gets in, and (now) you’re saying, ‘I hope the NDP really steps up and protects us from our Conservative government.’”

iPolitics – Why we can’t just trust CSIS to do the right thing

If laughter really is the best medicine, then I have to thank Christian Leuprecht. His appearance before a Commons committee this week on Bill C-51 had me laughing so hard I won’t need to see a doctor again for years.

Leuprecht, an associate professor at the Royal Military College, appeared before the Public Safety and National Security Committee to offer an impersonation of someone who knows what he’s talking about.

Prof. Leuprecht may have the academic credentials, but his gut-busting remarks demonstrate he doesn’t have a clue about what really goes on inside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — nor the contempt the spy agency has for anyone in or outside government who tries to keep serious tabs on what it’s up to. 

FIRST NATIONS 

CBC News – Aboriginal Affairs won’t fund life-saving airstrip in Saskatchewan

A Cree community in northern Saskatchewan without access to air ambulance service says people’s lives have been lost or endangered while the federal and provincial governments squabble over jurisdiction.

Six hundred kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, on the southern shore of Reindeer Lake, the community of Southend is home to 1,000 people.

It doesn’t have an airstrip that can accommodate an air ambulance, and the nearest hospital and doctor are located in La Ronge, a two- to three-hour drive on a winding gravel road.

Hill Times – Canada needs to work with Inuit to bolster its sovereignty claims in the Arctic, say experts
If Canada is going to achieve its territorial aims in the Arctic it needs to treat the Inuit population as partners, rather than using only their existence to bolster Canadian sovereignty claims. This was the message from a panel of experts who appeared before the Senate Liberal Open Caucus on Wednesday March 25 to discuss the issues facing the Arctic….

Peter Hutchins, also of Hutchins Legal, noted that the ironic part in all this is that the presence of the Inuit in the Arctic is the best chance Canada has at achieving its objectives. However, this can only be achieved by respecting the spirit of the treaties which Canada and the Inuit have signed in the past, and this is not happening. “Canada says we now have full sovereignty and that’s it,” Hutchins stated, “but the transaction was quid pro quo. It was in return for something, and frankly if Canada does not honour its obligations, the Inuit are entitled to say the deal’s off.”

THE WAR MONGERS

Globe and Mail – Government votes to extend, expand military mission against IS

Canada is now at war in Syria.   Prime Minister Stephen Harper used his party’s Commons majority to authorize extending Canada’s military fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq for 12 months and expanding that fight into Syria.

The Commons vote took place in a divided House where Canada’s two major opposition parties, with about 40 per cent of the seats, refused to support it. The Commons motion endorsing the revised mission passed 142-129. Thirty-three MPs were absent for the vote and one abstained.

iPolitics – Mr. Alexander’s fantasy Cold War 

That was some speech Immigration Minister Chris Alexander gave the Ukrainian Canadian Congress last week. It combined a scathing attack on Vladimir Putin with a rousing call to arms…..

Mr. Alexander warned that “we are at the beginning of a long struggle” against Russians “who want to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” In the meantime — in his view — there is no hope for world peace and security “without a full international effort to give Ukraine the tools it needs to drive Russian forces from its borders and secure (them) for good.”

But no, Russia is not trying to put the USSR back together again. And no, world peace and security would not be at all well served by major war with Russia on its border. Nor would Ukrainians — who would be, as they have been before, the first victims of any such conflict. Mr. Alexander is right: “The buck stops in Ukraine.”

Embassy – Syrian aid money approved without due diligence, docs show

Foreign Affairs bureaucrats partially filled out an application form for an aid group seeking government money for Syrian medical aid in 2012 and, under pressure from the minister, pushed it through the approval process without performing due diligence, newly released documents show.

While visiting a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan on Aug. 11, 2012, then-foreign minister John Baird announced aid to Syrians caught up in what appeared to be a growing civil war between anti-government forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  That included $2 million for Canadian Relief for Syria, a Canadian non-governmental organization established only a few months earlier.

But within a couple days of the weekend announcement, reporters started asking Mr. Baird’s office and the foreign ministry questions about the group’s track record. The Canadian Relief for Syria website said the group was still in the process of getting charitable status, didn’t list any previous projects and redirected prospective donors to the site of another aid group, Human Concern International.    That group faced controversy for its past ties to Ahmed Said Khadr, the dad of ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

TRANSPARENCY?

Vancouver Observer – Feds stifle media questions around oil sands’ toxic effects, FOIs reveal

Documents obtained by DeSmog Canada reveal that Canada’s Ministry of Environment vetoed an interview request on toxins in fur-bearing animals in the oilsands, even though the federal scientist was “media trained and interested in doing the interview.”

TAXING TIMES

CBC News – Tax bill hiked for civil servants sent to war zones

Civil servants representing Canada in the world’s most dangerous places are being hit by a personal income tax hike, a possibly unintended consequence of the 2012 budget that senior government officials are struggling to reverse.

Changes that took hold in 2013 began treating group sickness or accident insurance plans — including accidental death and dismemberment policies for travel in war zones — as a taxable benefit.

Globe and Mail – Family tax breaks to benefit parents with no childcare expenses: PBO

This year’s expansion of the Universal Child Care Benefit will deliver billions of dollars to parents with no child-care expenses at all, according to an analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that has reignited debate over Ottawa’s approach to child care.

Jean-Denis Fréchette, the PBO, released a report Tuesday that found the Conservative government’s latest child-care measures will bring total federal spending on child care to nearly $8-billion a year. The report notes this is a major increase over the $600-million spent by Ottawa prior to 2006, when the Conservatives came to power promising the Universal Child Care Benefit.

ENVIRONMENTAL FOLLY

Maclean’s – US, Mexico sign climate co operation deal as Canada stalls

The Harper government is temporarily standing on the sidelines as international negotiations ramp up for a United Nations climate conference at the end of this year.

The conference scheduled for Paris in December is supposed to result in a post-2020 global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions – a successor to the Copenhagen accord signed in 2009.

To help the negotiations, countries that are ready have been asked to submit their emissions targets and climate plans by March 31, a Tuesday deadline Environment Canada says it won’t meet.

JUST NASTY

Huffington Post – Pierre Poilievre Won’t Help Cancer Victim In Fight For CPP Disability
Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre will not intervene to ensure a terminally ill Alberta man denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits finally gets his payments.

Peter McClure, 62, is suffering from lung and rectal cancer and has outlived his doctor’s prognosis.

McClure says he was told by Service Canada 18 months ago that his condition wasn’t severe or prolonged enough to qualify for CPP disability, and was advised to apply for CPP retirement benefits instead, which pay significantly less.

ipolitics – CFIA cutting back on meat inspections in Northern Alberta: document
Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s office is continuing to insist that reports of Canadian Food Inspection Agency cuts to the number of meat inspections in Northern Alberta are “irresponsible and inaccurate” despite the fact internal documents obtained by iPolitics show the agency is doing just that.

iPolitics – Liberal defence critic says she was blocked from visiting bases

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray is accusing the government of blocking her efforts to visit Canadian Forces bases across the country.   Murray said the problem started in late 2013 and early this year when she asked for permission to visit CFB Trenton, CFB Esquimalt and CFB Comox. She said she tried initially to contact the bases directly and was told to go through then-defence minister Rob Nicholson’s office —  but she never received a reply to her requests.

Despite repeated messages to both the base and Nicholson’s office, she said she only received a reply in July — when Nicholson’s staff told her verbally the visit was “not going to happen, (there’s) policy against it.”

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Harper Watch – March 17 to 25, 2015


FOSTERING FEAR AND DIVISION

Huff Post – Canadian Bar Association Denounces Anti-Terror Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Newswatch – Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tyee – Harry Smith Is Coming for Stephen Harper

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

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

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

VETERANS AND THE VULNERABLE

Ottawa Citizen – Chapin: What veterans’ families want

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Harper Watch – March 10 to 17, 2015


WE’RE STARTING WITH SOME VERY INSIGHTFUL HUMOUR THIS WEEK

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

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

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

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 More on this important topic.

VOTE BUYING

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

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

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

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

CREATING DIVING, PROMOTING ISLAMOPHOBIA

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

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

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

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

Contrast to this inspiring message of inclusion from Justin Trudeau

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

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

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

 

 “SECURITY” AND WARMONGERING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But NATO officials say no such thing happened.

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

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

 

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Harper Watch – February 25 to March 9, 2015


COMMENTARY 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto Star – Harper senators hold McCarthyesque hearings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 TERRIFYING! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VETERANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST NATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

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

The minister was not immediately available for comment late Friday.

CBC News – Cod fishery extended into spawning season … again

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

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

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

ECONOMY

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

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

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

 

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Harper Watch – February 15 to 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC – CSIS watchdog agency starved of staff, resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENTARY

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

Dear Prime Minister:

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

Toronto Star – Charity law blocks progress on issues facing Canadians

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

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

JOBS AND ECONOMY 

iPolitics – Babbling while the economy falls to its knees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC News – Fisheries Act changes worry scientists, seafood industry

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

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

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

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

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

CANADA IN THE WORLD

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

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

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

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

BACK IN COURT

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

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

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

 

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Harper Watch – February 1 to 14, 2015


SPECIAL FEATURE 

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

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

Minister Erin O’Toole,

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

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

COMMENTARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARPERNOMICS

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

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

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

Now – Who owns Stephen Harper?

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

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

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

The first: who owns Stephen Harper?

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

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

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUST WRONG

iPolitics – Poilievre obstructed efforts to improve EI system: Jennings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto Star – Migrant construction workers sue Ottawa for discrimination

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARING FEAR ITSELF

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

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

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

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

ipolitics – Stephen Harper’s imaginary justice

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

TOO FUNNY, TOO TRUE (SATIRE ALERT!)

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

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

 

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