More critically, Mr. Harper’s claims about his economic and fiscal record lapse into the realm of fiction.
He boasts about low taxes, but in fact he has increased the overall federal tax burden in each of his last four budgets. Small business owners, credit unions, consumers and middle-class families have all been hit. As just one prime example, higher EI payroll taxes every year since 2011 have already raked in an extra $3.6-billion from both employers and employees, and now the Conservatives are freezing EI rates at clearly excessive levels to collect even more revenue on-going.
Mr. Harper says he now has a grand plan to reduce the federal deficit, but when he first took office in 2006, Canada had been deficit-free for nearly a decade. He is the one who squandered that advantage. He overspent by three times the rate of inflation and put this country back into the red before the recession arrived in 2008. And that made dealing with the downturn much more costly. At the bottom line, the Harper regime has created more than $150-billion in new federal debt
Stephen Harper will resign. He will go on his own, he will not be pushed. He will, in an elegant statement, say the decision was personal and that he wishes to spend time with his family and future fellow board members of Encana. An important chapter in Canada’s political history will come to a close. Canadians will never see his like again; his rock piano will fall silent. A terrific leadership race will follow. All eyes will be on Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt, Michael Chong and Jim Prentice.
Jason Kenney will be the front-runner. Years of attending every ethnic cultural event in the nation will have paid off with adoring crowds at all appearances. When it is revealed that the omnipresent Sri Lankan gentlemen who throw rose petals at Kenney’s feet are unpaid interns from Canadians for Ethical Oil wearing full blackface, Kenney continues unfazed.
Compared to the string of Martin budget surpluses, Harper’s current $150-billion deficit, and years of even worse performances, looks pretty dismal. Somebody may be doing very well, but it’s not Joe Average. And whatever Jim Flaherty may be, he is decidedly not the best finance minister in the world — except in Harper’s speaking notes.
Not since the 1930s has the distribution of wealth in the country been worse. The wealthiest one per cent takes home 10 times more than the average Canadian. Canada’s top CEOs, the Harper government’s natural constituency, earn in a day and a half what their typical employees make in a year.
OTTAWA—Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says the next federal election has to be fought on the issue of democracy in Canada — or the lack of it — before it’s too late.
“We are on a slippery slope to the loss of our democracy,” says May, mincing no words as she looks back on how 2013 unfolded in Parliament and what’s ahead for the new year.
Power is now so concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office and its unelected staff members, says May, that Canadian democracy already resembles “a dictatorship punctuated by elections.”
And the Green Party leader is worried that things will only get worse after the next election, no matter who wins, unless this becomes a ballot-box issue in the 2015 campaign.
What future prime minister is likely to arrive in office and start worrying that he or she has too much power, she asks.
As 2013 comes to a close, the Official Opposition and other observers are decrying the Harper government’s decision to grant certain cabinet ministers new discretionary powers over the past year.
A number of cabinet ministers have been granted new special powers this year through various pieces of government legislation, including two major omnibus budget bills in March and October.
SEE, READ AND SPEAK NO SCIENCE or INFORMATION IN HARPERLAND
Science Blogs – Confessions of a Science Librarian
(A great source of information on the Harper Government’s War on Science)
The Canadian War on Science 2013: A year in advocacy
Scientists are calling it “libricide.” Seven of the nine world-famous Department of Fisheries and Oceans [DFO] libraries were closed by autumn 2013, ostensibly to digitize the materials and reduce costs. But sources told the independent Tyee in December that a fraction of the 600,000-volume collection had been digitized. And, a secret federal document notes that a paltry $443,000 a year will be saved. The massacre was done quickly, with no record keeping and no attempt to preserve the material in universities. Scientists said precious collections were consigned to dumpsters, were burned or went to landfills.
Scientists knew last spring that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was closing seven of its 11 regional libraries housing decades of aquatic research.
But it was not until they saw the shelves being cleared, the books and journals being scooped up for free by private companies, and the scientific reports being hauled off to the dumpster that the magnitude of the purge hit home.
“It’s a loss,” said Burton Ayles, a former DFO regional director and the former director of science for the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, the site of one of the libraries that have been shut down. “It’s a loss of historic material, it’s a loss of the grey [not widely published] literature.”
Former Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl is facing questions over a possible conflict of interest after the Vancouver Observer revealed that he’s been hired by Enbridge to help them sell the provincial BC government on the merits of the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
On Monday, ForestEthics Advocacy issued a statement calling on Strahl to step down from his current gig as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the five-person board charged with keeping an eye on Canada’s top secret spy agency.
“In late 2013 it emerged that the Harper government had used CSIS and the RCMP to spy on critics of oil pipeline projects, including the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and Idle No More,” the release noted. .
(Something smells fishy here and it’s not just the books rotting in the landfill)
In addition to top spy watchdog Chuck Strahl, Enbridge enjoys the lobbying services of Hill and Knowlton, an international public relations firm with a coterie of high profile clients and strong ties to Harper’s Conservatives.
Hill and Knowlton consultants Josh Christensen and Sarah Waddell are listed along with Chuck Strahl on the BC Lobbyists Registry as lobbyists for Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. They’re reinforced by an army of 17 Enbridge executives and staff who registered as lobbyists on December 19, 2013, two days before the Canadian Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel recommendation to approve the tar sands pipeline.
As Harper was about to begin a question-and-answer session on energy and economic issues, two protesters stood behind him and held up signs that read “Climate Justice Now” and “The Conservatives take climate change seriously” with a line crossing out the phrase.
VANCOUVER – The federal government has violated Canadian law by failing to protect endangered species, a coalition of environmental groups told a Federal Court judge on Wednesday.
The groups say the environment and fisheries ministers have “unlawfully” delayed final recovery strategies for four critically endangered species well past mandatory deadlines set out in the federal Species At Risk Act.
The court action filed by Ecojustice on behalf of the Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and Wildsight, cites the Pacific humpback whale, the Nechako white sturgeon, the marbled murrelet and the southern mountain caribou.
At the time the lawsuit was filed in late 2012, the final recovery strategies for these four species were between four and six years overdue.
(Let’s see how long it takes for the PMO to force a retraction out of Braid)
In most Christian churches, Jan. 6 is commemorated as the Epiphany, marking the day when three wise men brought gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
Monday, Jan. 6 also turned out to be an epiphany of sorts for Canadian environmentalists. In this case, the revelation came from Ontario Conservative MP Peter Braid. The member from Kitchener-Waterloo made a direct link between climate change and extreme weather events during a panel discussion on the CBC News Network program Power & Politics .
“We are seeing the effects, the impacts of climate change,” Braid told host Evan Solomon on Monday. “With climate change comes extreme weather events. We saw that through the floods in southern Alberta, we’re now seeing that with the ice storms in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, with the extreme cold across the country.”
Meanwhile, over at the Prime Minister’s Office, a little tarnish was applied to Braid’s present.
“Environment Canada scientists have said that individual weather events cannot be directly linked to climate change,” PMO spokesman Stephen Lecce pointed out.
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It’s been three years now since the last mandatory Canadian long-form census, which means some of the information is getting a little outdated, and the switch to a voluntary census for all future surveys has small business start-ups worried about where they’ll find demographic information.
If you have an idea for a small business that caters to a specific age group or income bracket, figuring out where to locate could prove hard with that lack of census information going forward.
“You need to know something about your market. You need to know how old they are, how much income they have,” says small business owner Pete Quily adding big cities like Vancouver have changed significantly since the last complete questionnaire in 2011.
This has Quily worried. “Because [the government has] killed off that long form census, you can’t get that information anymore in the future going forward.”
With the next long form census in 2016 designated as voluntary, experts expect the information will not be as reliable as years past. ns business start ups are dependent on information that will be gutted by making long form questionnaire voluntary
THE HUMAN TOLL
Federal government’s legal bill equal to almost 3 years of disabled teen’s care
The federal government’s legal bills to fight a Nova Scotia woman who is seeking care for her severely disabled teen would have paid for almost three years of his care, CBC News has learned.
Documents obtained through access to information reveal the government has already spent nearly $200,000 in its fight to cap what it will pay towards the cost of caring for Jeremy Meawasige.
The aboriginal teenager, who lives on the Pictou Landing reserve in Nova Scotia, suffers from cerebral palsy, autism, spinal curvature and hydrocephalus, a debilitating accumulation of spinal fluid in the brain.
His mother, Maurina Beadle, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2010, is seeking the same level of care that the province would provide to an aboriginal child off reserve.
Because Meawasige lives on a reserve, his care is the responsibility of the federal government.
Tom MacEachern said his wife left a note for the family and that her death was a “final desperate act” as a result of “protracted battles” with Veterans Affairs over medical benefits for dental work she received in the late 1980s, while stationed in Germany during the First Gulf War.
What initially appeared to be a tragic Christmas Day accident on an Alberta highway was actually the “final desperate act” of a Canadian soldier who died of suicide, her husband has revealed to CTV News.
Retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern, a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck on the Trans-Canada highway near Calgary, her husband Tom said in a written statement.
“We would like to say that Leona had slipped through the cracks in the system but, in fact, there does not seem to be ‘a system,’” Tom wrote, noting that MacEachern’s PTSD treatment consisted of seeing a psychiatrist for 45 minutes a week.
The end of Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan and deep cuts to defence budgets in the United States and other allied nations are driving the federal government to look to developing countries as potential buyers of Canadian-made guns and military equipment.
But while the government and arms industry say new markets will bolster Canadian jobs and prosperity, arms-control advocates worry about Canadian-made weapons being used to suppress democratic and human rights, or contributing to ongoing or emerging conflicts.
Canadian-made light armoured vehicles of the type used by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were sold to Saudi Arabia several years ago and later used in 2011 to help crack down on protesters in neighbouring Bahrain.
And the addition of Colombia to the firearms control list in December 2012 was followed several days later by the sale of 24 similar armoured vehicles for $65 million despite concerns about human and labour rights inside the Latin American country.
POLITICS VS. REALITY
For the life of me I cannot decipher what point Jim Flaherty thought he was making over the weekend in that interview with CTV.
“I think the pressure (to raise rates) will be there. … The OECD and the IMF have both said to Canada we ought to let our interest rates go up a bit. So there’ll be some pressure there for that to happen.”
Huh? What pressure? Though both organizations have issued reports suggesting interest rates were likely to rise by the end of the year, these were more in the nature of a projection than a policy prescription. But even if it were the latter: pressure? The International Monetary Fund is demanding that Canada raise interest rates? Really? And what will they do if we don’t?
What on earth was he on about? That if rates do rise, we should blame it on pressure from shadowy international agencies? That notwithstanding this pressure for rates to rise, in fact they will stay low? That he thinks rates should rise, and is citing the authority of these third-party validators?
During the just-passed season of giving and filial love, you may have observed that no potential giftee was more prominent in your in-box, hand figuratively extended, than your favourite political party. Their begging letters, once an occasional intrusion, are now ubiquitous. It’s as though they’re desperate, focused to the exclusion of all else on emptying your wallet. Surely a political party should have something beyond money – the greater good, say, or a just society – to warm the cockles of its heart?
Well, no. Not anymore. Our political parties are cash-starved and ravenous for cash, around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Thanks to reforms begun by then-prime-minister Jean Chretien in 2004 and broadened by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006 and 2011, we enjoy a wonderfully egalitarian political fundraising model – that isn’t working. In fact the system itself is helping make our politics meaner, dumber and more myopic than ever before.
Canada’s Conservative government insists it is strengthening the economy. It is not. It is abandoning it.
The reasons are political. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, now have only one goal in mind — the 2015 federal election.
And they are determined to slash government spending in order to balance Ottawa’s books before then.
They calculate that a fiscal surplus in 2015 will allow their party to offer voters a platter of tasty tax cuts that will win it four more years in power.
Canada’s commercial diving sector is outraged that Seattle-based divers — and not qualified Canadians — were hired for the $50-million pre-Christmas cleanup of fuel oil from a U.S. military ship that sank off B.C.’s north coast in 1946.
The fact the federal government says it allowed the U.S. divers to work on the Brig.- Gen. M.G. Zalinski due to an environmental emergency — six years after Ottawa first sought proposals from industry for the cleanup — is only compounding the frustration.
OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency is planning to cut auditors at the same time it acknowledges difficulty in tracking and collecting billions of dollars in unreported income from domestic and international tax evasion.
The CRA comes down hard on the small timers — the low hanging fruit — but when it comes to the wealthy, the agency turns a blind eye.
Briefing books prepared for new Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay, and obtained by Postmedia News under access to information legislation, also suggest Prime Minister Stephen Harper is contemplating a major policy change at the CRA in 2015 that poses a “risk area” to the agency.
The briefing materials also explain a handful of “systemic issues” were being reviewed by the CRA, including “taxpayers wrongfully declared deceased.”
Planned cuts to auditors at the CRA come as the auditor general warned in November the agency is unprepared to investigate the growing amount of information it is receiving on international tax evasion and Canadians with potential offshore accounts.
A predictable world order where things like trade and security play out according to rules (admittedly something observed more in the breach in many parts of the world) is a world in which smaller countries have a better chance of advancing their interests. This is quiet, patient, painstaking work that rarely generates headlines. Progress is incremental and measured in years. It is less emotionally satisfying to some than yelling at the world from the rooftops. But it makes a contribution, over time, to creating a world that serves Canada’s interests.
The Conservatives have stood this on its head. In making foreign policy a reflection of their domestic approach to governance – finding wedge issues with which to detach segments of the population and play to their fears and angers – the Conservatives have given us a bitter, small-minded foreign policy. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the promotion of gay rights internationally, but most of the Conservative approach is centred on angry assertions of simplistic moral absolutes that play well to certain domestic constituencies, but contribute nothing to the world or to unifying Canadians behind a positive vision of their place in it.
OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he doesn’t want to “pile on” Israel for its recent decision to build new settlements in Palestinian territory.
Baird sidestepped the controversy as he introduced Canada’s new ambassador to the Jewish state: Vivian Bercovici, a Toronto lawyer who has praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and taken a hard line against Hamas and the Palestinian leadership.
Baird defended the decision to go outside the ranks of the foreign service to appoint Bercovici, who has also written freelance columns about the Middle East that indicate her strong support of Israel.