HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(Canadians may finally be waking up!)
Canadians’ unhappiness with the federal government grew dramatically in 2013, judging by the results of a yearly poll released by Nanos Research and the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
When it comes to the performance of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, 56 per cent of those polled said they did a poor job in 2013. That compares to 33 per cent last year and 25 per cent in 2011.
(Well, it’s a start!)
HARPER’S WAR ON TRUTH
The barely hidden agenda is to unravel Canada’s signature public health care model in favour of an aggregate of more expensive, more fragmented and less universal corporate models.
Just as the Harper government corrupted the environmental file (in the name of “streamlining”), by drastically removing federal oversight and involvement (vacating jurisdiction), so too is it “vacating jurisdiction” of health care.
The agenda is being achieved by starving the provinces of required funding. Once the 2014 Health Accord is expired, the Harper government will reduce its Canada Health Transfers (CHT’s) — monies transferred from the federal government to the provinces — by $36 billion, up to the end of 2024.
The void of insufficient funding will be filled by corporate health care.
Canada’s spy agencies have deliberately misled judges to expand their eavesdropping powers unlawfully, a newly released ruling says.
In a rebuke to Canadian counter-terrorism practices, the 51-page ruling says federal agencies are wrongly enlisting U.S and British allies in global surveillance dragnets that risk harming Canadian terrorism suspects and could expose government agents to criminal charges. On the advice of watchdog agencies, the judge was reconsidering a 2008 decision to expand the wiretapping reach of Canadian intelligence services.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the economy is too weak to support a modest, phased-in increase in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums divided between employers and employees. This is disputed by experts, and also contradicts Conservative messaging in two important ways. First, in every other context, from the Speech from the Throne, to the recent Economic and Fiscal Update, the Conservatives have bragged about Canada’s economic performance and highlighted the chances of a strong recovery. Except when it comes to the CPP debate, “the land is strong.”Second, in every other context, the Conservatives share the widespread concern that Canadians are saving too little, and running up too much debt.
In politics, 2013 might be remembered as the year politicians tainted by scandal decided that the concept of honour no longer required them to step aside.
The actions of three Conservative senators have done more harm to the government than any other circumstance since Stephen Harper became prime minister in 2006.
Yet there has been no flurry of resignations — not one of them bowed out, or even stepped aside voluntarily from caucus. The Senate suspended them without pay, but they are still “honourable senators.”
OTTAWA — A Transport Canada inspector was dismissed for falsifying inspection reports but the department refuses to say anything more about the misdeeds in order to protect the former employee’s privacy.
The department says that divulging even the mode of transport involved — rail, road, air or marine — would compromise the wrongdoer’s rights.
A bare-bones description of the case was posted on the department’s website for the fourth quarter of 2012-13 and additional information about a related “systemic problem” was mentioned in a report recently tabled in Parliament.
But details remain sketchy, prompting a pro-democracy group and the official Opposition to call for greater transparency.
OTTAWA – For Stephen Tarrant, fears of a looming skills shortage in Canada, particularly in the lucrative natural resources sector, are downright laughable.
After six years of expensive, intensive post-secondary training, Tarrant graduated last year from Memorial University with a degree in economic geology, a published honours thesis and several terms of paid fieldwork under his belt.
But in the year since leaving school, the 24-year-old has learned a harsh truth: a degree tailor-made for the much-touted mining and energy sector does not guarantee a job in it.
OTTAWA — At the end of a year that has seen the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government rocked by scandals uncovered by journalists, the Conservative Party is again targeting the media in fundraising pitches to supporters.
Party president John Walsh sent an email to the supporters Friday evening that lumped the media together with the Liberal Party as the Conservatives’ opponents.
“Here’s the bad news — the Liberal fundraising machine is in overdrive, and we need to keep up,” Walsh wrote in the email pitch.
“We can’t let Liberal attacks and the media stop us from reaching our goal.”
PARLIAMENT HILL—Public servants have issued more than 2,700 news releases since 2011 attributing virtually every federal initiative and spending announcement to the “Harper Government”—from a $1-billion budget measure in Ottawa to $128,000 for a beach upgrade in Conservative MP Gerald Keddy’s riding.
Records tabled in the House of Commons reveal the government spent at least $206,756 to circulate the news releases on commercial news wires, and the Liberal Party, which asked for the information, argues the figures demonstrate the extent to which Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) has politicized day-to-day operations of the public service.
Opposition MPs say the practice of attributing federal spending initiatives to Mr. Harper contravenes a tradition of using departmental announcements in a non-partisan fashion and, although Conservatives insist previous Liberal governments did the same, the opposition insists those statements were limited to news releases from either the office of a prime minister or a minister.
HARPER’S WAR ON SCIENCE
(Orwellian book burnings in Canada – what next?)
Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.
Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Québec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.
HARPER’S WAR ON THE ENVIRONMENT
According to internal federal briefing notes obtained by Postmedia News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is eliminating about 500 jobs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans related to Coast Guard services, patrols to stop illegal fishing activities as well as scientific research to promote conservation, protect endangered species, and prevent industrial water pollution.
The cuts, part of the federal government’s efforts to eliminate its deficit, cover 26 different areas of the department which has a workforce of about 10,000 employees. The downsizing also includes the shutdown of federal libraries and millions of dollars in reductions to climate change adaptation programs. In total, the department estimates it will cut about $80 million per year from its budget by 2014-15, and over $100 million per year in the following fiscal year.
But the cuts coincide with internal advice from top bureaucrats that the government should instead be increasing its spending in the department to protect both economic and environmental interests, particularly for Coast Guard services which are facing cuts equivalent to about $20 million by 2014-15 and 300 full-time jobs.
Canada is not ready to unveil already long-delayed rules on curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta oil sands, the environment minister said on Thursday in comments that could boost U.S. resistance to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The right-leaning Conservative government, which has close ties to the energy-rich western province of Alberta, has repeatedly delayed the release of proposed regulations to tackle soaring emissions from the oil and gas sector.
The report handed down on Dec. 19 by the federal panel assessing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is deeply flawed. The panel has attached 209 conditions to its approval of the proposal, and if these conditions were met, it is beyond question pipeline and port safety would improve. But attaching conditions is the easy part. This does not create any greater level of security. The question that the panel failed to address is the probability of these requirements being met during the construction phase and, more importantly, in the years after the pipeline enters service. There was no examination of other similar situations where construction was expected to be in accordance with mandated conditions, but where, in fact, when the construction began or the operation of the facility began, the mandated conditions were simply ignored or set aside.
OTTAWA — Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq set aside a proposal from her department earlier this year to publicly state that the Harper government recognized scientific evidence that humans were “mostly responsible for climate change” and that it took this threat “seriously.”
Environment Canada proposed that she make these comments in response to a major report released in September by an international panel of scientists, including Canadians, that was created in 1988 to assess the latest peer-reviewed literature about global warming. The federal department’s recommended message was part of a proposed communications strategy, obtained by Postmedia News under access to information legislation, to raise awareness about the impacts of the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and gas and other human activity linked by scientists to global warming.
HARPER’S WAR ON CANADIANS – CIVIL SERVICE AND TAXPAYERS
OTTAWA—As the federal Conservatives cut the ranks of the public service, spending on extra professional services for departments and agencies has been steadily increasing to more than $10 billion a year, a Star analysis reveals.
Federal departments and agencies spent more than $10 billion annually for the past four years on professional services — work like management consulting, IT assistance, and engineering, purchased from external contractors or from other government entities. That’s up from the $7.8 billion spent in 2006 — a 27.8 per cent increase under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure.
Over the seven-year period, the federal government has spent more than $67 billion on outside professional help. The bulk of that money — about $41 billion — has been spent over the past four fiscal years alone.
(This and the following article illustrate the underhanded methods used by Harper fool Canadians about how much money is allocated to certain programs. On the one hand their MP mouthpieces spout “This government is spending more than any other on such and such a program” while on the other hand, they know that the money may have been allocated but will never be spent.)
The Harper government’s cuts in the defence budget are reckless and very damaging to the essential parts of our military as well as to its ability to discharge its vital mission of protecting the Canadian public. As I pointed out to my Senate colleagues during my speech on Bill C- 4, this government is balancing its books on the backs of the Canadian Armed Forces members and serving veterans. This is hypocritical and unethical.
Lapsing is defined as the failure to spend money allocated to a department within a fiscal year. From time to time this might be considered a good thing — such as when a program is not ready to be funded. The funds are returned to the treasury and applied to other priorities.
However, chronic and deliberate lapsing is either incompetence or dishonesty or sometimes both. Routine failure to spend money allocated by Parliament to a departmental budget speaks to a hidden agenda. In this case, it is the pathological goal to balance the budget at all costs in time for the next election, regardless of the consequences. Monies not spent go back to the Treasury, disappear and re-emerge on the other side as “surprise” surpluses: budgetary balance by stealth.
Nelson Mandela embodied restorative principles. After his release from prison, he lived a life of reconciliation, promoted dialogue and offered hope. Stephen Harper demonizes his opponents, shuts down debate and stirs up fear to secure votes.
Mandela forgave his jailers. Harper is building more prison cells — and doing his best to fill them.
“You have to understand these people have nothing. That’s the tragedy,” said Waterloo region Ontario Court Justice Colin Westman, one of many judges in Ontario who have found ways to minimize the mandatory penalty by doling out small fines that reduce the victim surcharge to as little as 30 cents.
“I’m not trying to be a smart-aleck here but I think someone has to remind the minister there are broken people here who don’t have anything to give. It’s a bully mentality. It’s kicking people while they are down,” said Westman Tuesday. “The people we are dealing with, believe me, a high portion of them are just broken souls.”
The federal government is dismantling a state-of-the-art Nova Scotia fish hatchery it spent $400,000 upgrading over the last five years.
The Mersey Centre for Biodiversity in Milton was a breeding ground for endangered and threatened fish, including Atlantic salmon and its cousin the Atlantic white fish.
But Fisheries and Oceans Canada is shutting down the facility one building at a time. The fish have been removed and the labs and scientists are gone. Special ponds constructed with the help of the Queens County Fish and Game Association are gone, too.
HARPER’S WAR ON DIPLOMACY
While there may be a good business case to be made in some instances — the gardening costs alone for the Rome residence are said to be $250,000 a year — there does seem to be an indecent haste to some of the sales.
Could a better price be realized if and when European real estate markets rebound? Are we undermining our own international influence by moving our diplomats from the heart of world capitals and relocating them into more remote locations?
HARPER’S WAR ON CANADA – WILL HE WIN IT?
The scam is as simple as it is brazen: Harper has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting his government. Often, it’s the highly partisan stuff that should be paid for by the Conservative party. He’s using public money for political gain — and doing it in a time of cutbacks.
The prime minister’s excuse for this raid on the public purse — like his account of the Wright/Duffy affair — depends on the day you ask him.
That the Harperites may already have executed their counter-revolution is illustrated by one of Wells’ more telling anecdotes. In La Presse not long after becoming new Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau said he wouldn’t have to raise taxes to fund a more activist Liberal agenda because “Canada has lots of money at the federal level.” As Wells rightly notes, “[Trudeau] was talking the talk of Conservative hegemony.” But was Justin right? In a word, No. “The federal government has less revenue as a share of the economy than it has ever had at any point during Pierre Trudeau’s time in power,” notes Wells. “Harper’s goal is to hobble not just his government but any federal government that will come after it.”
For Paul Wells, however, what is most striking about Harper’s grand strategic plan is the prudence of its execution. Stephen Harper has a reputation in some quarters as an extreme right-wing politician. Perhaps, deservedly. And Wells documents many of the political excesses that roil his opponents: “He called Stephan Dion a terrorist sympathizer, questioned Michael Ignatieff’’s loyalty to Canada, fired the nuclear safety lady for worrying about nuclear safety and stacked the Rights and Democracy Board with clowns from the Shriner circus but, by and large, he has put the long game ahead of the instinct to scratch whatever itched.”