Harper Watch, November 12 to 20, 2013


Canada.com – Anatomy of a Senate expense scandal: RCMP releases a long trail of astonishing emails
It reads like a gripping detective story sold at your neighbourhood book store — only it’s not fiction.

The 81-page document released by the RCMP Wednesday into the Senate expense scandal contains page after page of fascinating material which, for the first time, appear to reveal how the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy scheme to repay Duffy’s expenses – first thought to be $32,000, then later revealed to be $90,000 – unfolded.

And much of the details can be found in the once-private emails written by the central cast of characters — some from the prime minister’s office, others from the Senate.

Huffington Post – Sen. Irving Gerstein, Top Tory Bagman, Tried To Sway Senate Scandal Audit: RCMP
The Conservatives’ self-styled chief bagman contacted a partner at Deloitte allegedly to try to influence an audit into the Senate expense scandal, according to information in new court documents released Wednesday.

In the court filing, the Mounties quote from emails that say the PMO asked Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein, who chairs the Conservative Fund, to contact Deloitte to try to get Duffy removed from the audit.

RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton quotes a March 1 email from Nigel Wright, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, to former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin. Duffy’s lawyer had asked Perrin for an update on whether Duffy would be removed from the Deloitte audit, which had been ordered by the Senate.   Wright replied he did not have an update, but said he asked Gerstein to try to influence the outcome of the audit.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Stephen Harper’s story — and reputation — still hanging on by a thread
To get straight to the point — though it is hardly the point: Stephen Harper’s story, and with it his reputation and his office, have been hanging these past six months by the slenderest of threads.

That thread, which the Prime Minister has artfully arranged over his own head, is that whatever illegal acts his every senior aide, Senate leader or party grandee might have known, approved of, connived in, covered up and lied about, he, personally, did not know before a certain date that Nigel Wright, his chief of staff, had written a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Mike Duffy for $90,000 in improperly claimed expenses.

The Prime Minister has hung onto that single thread even as every other part of his story has fallen apart: as “acted alone” became “very few,” as “full confidence” turned to “acted honourably” turned to “deceived,” as “resigned” turned to “dismissed.” So long as it could not be proven that he knew what he denied knowing, he could not be caught in a lie; and so long as the whole issue was framed as “did the Prime Minister flat-out lie to Parliament,” the multiple lies told by everyone around him, before, during and after the whole sordid affair might be made to recede into the background.

So: how stands that slender thread after today? Answer: still there, barely, but fraying by the hour. No, the RCMP affidavit does not produce direct evidence to prove him wrong on this question. But it demonstrates, more clearly than ever, how finely drawn and ultimately irrelevant it is.

Maclean’s – Inkless Wells – Good to go from the PM: The Harper era’s decadent phase
(“At worst, he personally ordered it done and chose the people who executed the plan. At the very least, he fostered an attitude within the party […], chose the managers of the people who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where [his] actions or lack of them fall on that scale. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads. If he had a right or honourable bone in his body, he’d admit that and resign immediately.”  Stephen Harper during the Gomery Investigation)

Stephen Harper’s defence in the Commons on the Wright-Duffy business was that he did not know about Wright’s decision to pay Duffy with a personal cheque. My reading of the RCMP memo is consistent with that. But it was Harper’s office. The Senate he has denied influencing was marching to his orders. He followed the process personally and closely right up to the moment Wright decided to treat Duffy’s expenses as, it now appears, Wright always treated his own: as something to be settled out of Wright’s own pocket. That contrast between Harper’s close eye on the matter before Wright pulled out his chequebook and his beatific innocence after is one of many things that will eventually be explained — whether the PM feels like explaining it today or not.


iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Cracked: Rob Ford and the death of shame
Picture a 330-pound Lindsay Lohan with testicles, headed for secret rehab, and you have the mayor of Toronto.   As for the strangest reaction to the man giving Toronto City Hall the feel of a Hell’s Angel clubhouse, it has to belong to the law-and-order, tough-on-crime Harper government.

Julian Fantino, a former freakin’ police chief, said he didn’t “want to get into it.” Jim Flaherty — the law-and-order man from Mike Harris’s day — sheds a tear for the family.

National Post Full Comment (Michael Den Tandt)  Rob Ford’s mass appeal should frighten voters beyond Toronto city limits
In 2015 the House of Commons is to grow, because of population increases and shifts, from its current 308 seats to 338. Eleven of these new seats are in and around Toronto. Take Ford’s visceral appeal to the under-educated working poor in the city proper. Add to that the 905 belt’s long-standing, benign neglect of any issue other than the tax bill. It’s a recipe for political influence that extends far beyond the mayoralty of Toronto.

And it’s not just about seat count. As Ken Whyte noted in Maclean’s earlier this month, political donation limits of $1,200 per person annually and bans on corporate and union donations, together with the end of federal funding of political parties, make mass appeal the meal ticket. The Tories have made this a science, with their constant mail-out pleas for donations. These donations are driven, more than anything else, by appeals to populist resentment. The target audience is precisely Rob Ford’s audience. The “sell” is Rob Ford’s sell. Fordism is simply a very crass manifestation of techniques the Harper Conservatives have been employing, albeit with more elegance and discretion, for years.


National Newswatch – PM Harper’s houses of disrepute
 (The author is the Former Chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. The title says it all. Offers great insight on how Harper is destroying democracy.)

The government members have been deprived of their freedom to think or act independently. Their sole purpose is to sit quietly and vote blindly in support of the government. Democracy as practised at the House of Commons committee level, at this time, could be best described as either dead or comatose.

In contrast to the situation in the Commons, the Senate committees continued to function at a much higher level and for a longer period of time. The Senate was largely populated with senators appointed by the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties. As a rule, these appointees were very well educated and brought important skill and knowledge to the Upper Chamber.

Yahoo News – Michael Sona, implicated in robocall scandal was on a beach when he allegedly confessed
We also learned that six Conservative staffers told Elections Canada investigator Allan Matthews that their colleague Michael Sona bragged about his alleged involvement in the fraudulent automated phone calls. Interestingly, we now know that Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton brought at least three of the witnesses to the attention of Mathews and sat in all the interviews.

And now there’s another strange twist to this story that shines a curious light on the Conservative Party.  According to iPolitics, at least one of the witnesses claims that Sona confessed to her during a time period that he couldn’t have because he was on a beach vacation.

Postmedia (Maher & McGregor) – Harper adviser delayed robocall witness interview for legal advice, email shows
One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s top advisers instructed a potential key witness in the robocalls investigation to delay an interview with an Elections Canada investigator until she could obtain legal advice.

Jenni Byrne, who was the Conservatives’ national campaign manager during the 2011 election, emailed Guelph campaign worker Andrew Prescott on Nov. 30, 2011, to ask him not to talk to an investigator looking into the “Pierre Poutine” robocall until she had a chance to talk to the party’s lawyer.

Prescott, whose computer was later linked to the robocall through web data logs, consulted with party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, as instructed by the party, in December, but he didn’t speak with the investigator until more than two months later –  on Feb. 24, 2012, the day after the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News reported that the fraudulent election-day robocall had been sent through a Conservative voter-contact firm.


HuffPost – Canada’s Climate Policy Worst In Developed World: Report
According to the latest annual report by the Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada is starting from the back of the pack.

“As in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries,” states the report, released Monday in Warsaw.

The comparative report, which has been compiled annually by environmental activists since 2005, shows Canada at the bottom of the industrialized world in terms of emissions per capita, development of renewable energy and international climate policy.

CBC News – Canada’s greenhouse gas stance slammed as COP 19 seeks solutions
Last year marked another record year for global greenhouse gas emissions. And a recent report from the UK found fossil fuel subsidies around the world added up to about $500 billion in 2011 – on the order of five times the amount of subsidies doled out to renewable energy.

The prospect of keeping the global rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius looks highly unlikely if current trends persist. And Canada, for its part, is not on track to meet its own commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Robinson’s message about reducing oil and gas production is one that would seem to be a tough sell in a country whose economic strategy is largely built around fossil fuel exports.

“We need two messages,” Robinson told The Sunday Edition’s Michael Enright. “Moving to a low-carbon economy would be very good for Canadians’ futures, and for everyone’s future. And as well as that, we don’t have a choice. We’re running out of time.

Vancouver Observer – Harper government’s extensive spying on anti-oilsands groups revealed in FOIs
Independent federal agency, National Energy Board, directly coordinated effort between CSIS, the RCMP and private oil companies.

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in BC and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show.  Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto ‘insurance policy’ to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

Huffington Post – Canada’s Great Economic Divide, In One Chart
StatsCan’s latest numbers on Canada’s trade balance, released Thursday, look positive on the face of it: Exports and imports both grew, and Canada’s trade deficit with the world shrank by more than half, to $435 million.

But dig a little deeper into the data, and what you see is a story of two different export sectors. As BMO chief economist Doug Porter put it in a client note Friday morning, “there is energy (doing just fine) and there is everything else (doing anything but fine).”

While energy exports have seen a $63.6-billion surplus for the past 12 months, everything else has seen a $72.9-billion deficit.

 Huff Post – Why We Should Admire Justin Trudeau’s Answer Instead of Mocking It
Justin Trudeau has “shocked” the media by providing an unusual response to a question posed to him during a fundraising event. When asked which nation, besides Canada, he most admires and why, Trudeau could have provided a “safe” answer and said the United States. Instead, Trudeau had the courage to name China.

My views of China are too conflicted for me to name it as the country I most admire. However, I remain grateful that Justin Trudeau had the intellectual courage to encourage Canadians to learn from China. If we want healthy political discourse in our country, we must listen and learn when politicians answer questions with responses that are honest rather than poll tested. If our politicians are not willing to study and learn from China, Canada is not benefiting from the political leadership we need.


About TheAlektera

I am a Canadian who, like many is upset at the state of our country under the Harper Regime. I do not wish to see Canada change into Harperland under the Harper Government. This blog will help document the actions of the Harper government which are eroding Canada's democratic process.
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