TRAVESTIES: STRIVING FOR MEDIOCRITY
CBC – Fifth Estate Documentary – The Silence of the Labs VIDEO
(Shocking, heartbreaking. If you missed it on TV you can watch it here.)
With massive cuts by Ottawa to everything from food inspections to water quality and climate change and the dismissal of more than 2,000 federal scientists and researchers, some scientists have become unlikely radicals –denouncing what they call a politically-driven war on knowledge. In Silence of the Labs, Linden MacIntyre tells their story – and what is at stake for Canadians – from Nova Scotia to the B.C. Pacific Coast and the far Arctic Circle.
Eric Marshall says he’s more than a bit upset. Distressed, even.
For nearly three decades, between 1967 and 1992, the now-retired scientist built from scratch one of the world’s finest collections on freshwater science at the University of Manitoba.
The 200,000-book collection, owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), contained old fishery reports, rare accounts on Arctic expeditions, research on fisheries in Lake Winnipeg and four shelves worth of records and reports from the Berger Commission on Arctic gas drilling, as well as a comprehensive collection of some of the oldest journals on freshwater ecology.
To recognize Marshall’s work assembling the collection for the Freshwater Institute, after his 1992 retirement the DFO named the library after him: the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library.
The federal library loaned out more books to other libraries than it ever borrowed, “and that’s pretty rare,” says the 83-year-old Marshall who retired in Cowichan Bay, B.C.
“I was amazed that they named it after me while I was still alive… usually they do that after you’ve been stuffed,” adds Marshall. “And now I’m amazed that I have outlived the library. I never expected that either… at the whim of a minister it has been torn apart and shipped off.”
Scientists across the country are expressing growing alarm that federal cutbacks to research programs monitoring areas that range from climate change and ocean habitats to public health will deprive Canadians of crucial information.
“What’s important is the scale of the assault on knowledge, and on our ability to know about ourselves and to advance our understanding of our world,” said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
In the past five years the federal government has dismissed more than 2,000 scientists, and hundreds of programs and world-renowned research facilities have lost their funding. Programs that monitored things such as smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality and climate change have been drastically cut or shut down.
CTV News – 7th soldier dies of suicide; Mulcair urges Harper to take ‘urgent action’
Another member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died of an apparent suicide, the seventh such death in the last two months, while Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair called on the prime minister to take “urgent action” and address the “crisis.”
Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez, a reservist belonging to The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment based in Kingston, Ont., died Wednesday. Sources told CTV News it was suicide.
Earlier in the day, military ombudsman Pierre Daigle told CTV’s Canada AM that one of the key findings of a report his office issued last year is that there is still a chronic shortage of mental health professionals available to active and retired Forces members.
“And even 16 months after our report, the Canadian Forces are still short of mental health providers,” Daigle said. “In fact, I’d say they’re lacking about 15 per cent of what they really require.”
Daigle said there is currently a shortage of 62 mental health professional positions from the Canadian Forces target of 450 – even while 51 qualified health professionals sit in the candidate pool because of a slow-moving hiring process.
He added though that even if all those workers came into the system tomorrow morning, that would only bring the staffing objective earmarked in 2002 – prior to the Afghanistan war.
“So even that number is not the exact requirement that the Forces will need for the future,” he said.
FIRST NATIONS AND ENVIRONMENT
Joined on the Massey Hall stage by representatives from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Young was especially scathing in his criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “hypocritical” administration, which Young said was ignoring science to irresponsibly drive corporate profits.
“Canada is trading integrity for money,” said the environmentally engaged 68-year-old rocker. “That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States and is lagging behind on the world stage. It’s an embarrassment to any Canadians.”
“I want my grandchildren to grow up and look up and see a blue sky and have dreams that their grandchildren are going to do great things,” he added later. “And I don’t see that today in Canada. I see a government just completely out of control.
“Money is number one. Integrity isn’t even on the map.”
TORONTO — Canadian musician Neil Young responded Monday to a statement issued by Prime Minister Harper’s office following comments Young made about the Alberta oilsands and the federal government.
In the PMO’s statement, issued on Sunday after Young held a press conference in Toronto, a spokesperson said the federal government has defended Canada’s natural resource sector as a fundamental part of the country’s economy.
“Our issue is not whether the natural resource sector is a fundamental part of the country,” Young said Monday in a statement. “Our issue is with the government breaking treaties with the First Nation and plundering the natural resources the First Nation has rights to under the treaties.”
The government also said it “recognizes the importance of developing resources responsibly and sustainably and we will continue to ensure that Canada’s environmental laws and regulations are rigorous.”
Young shot back: “When people say one thing and do another, it is hypocrisy. Our Canadian environmental laws don’t matter if they are broken.”
A judge has ordered the federal government to provide survivors of one of the country’s most notorious aboriginal residential schools with thousands of documents created by police during a multiyear investigation into physical and sexual abuse at the institution.
In a strongly worded ruling Tuesday, Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, said Canada must hand over all Ontario Provincial Police documents in its possession related to the investigation at the St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont. and must search out and disclose those it does not have.
“Based on its unduly narrow interpretation of its obligations, Canada has not adequately complied with its disclosure obligations with respect to the St. Anne’s narrative,” Justice Perell wrote in his ruling. He also ordered the federal government to pay the legal costs of the roughly 60 school survivors who took the government to court to obtain the documents that could support their claims for compensation.
Fay Brunning, the lawyer who represented the former students, said the ruling is a huge victory for her clients. “They had to go to this school, starting at age five or six, for up to eight years of their life and they lost their childhood innocence,” Ms. Brunning said.
Canada’s carbon emissions will soar 38% by 2030 mainly due to expanding tar sands projects, according to the government’s own projections.
In a new report to the United Nations, the Harper administration says it expects emissions of 815million tonnes of CO2 in 2030, up from 590Mt in 1990. Emissions from the fast-growing tar sands sector is projected to quadruple between 2005 and 2030, reaching 137Mt a year, more than Belgium and many other countries, the report shows.
Worse, Canada is likely under-reporting its emissions. An investigation in 2013 found that Canada’s reported emissions from its natural gas sector, the world’s third largest, could be missing as much as 212Mt in 2011 alone.
Conservative politicians are risking “irrelevancy” by failing to address the causes of climate change, the former President of the Maldives warns today.
Mohamed Nasheed, a Conservative himself, labels Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and the US Tea Party’s hostility to low carbon policies as examples of “antediluvian denialism” afflicting centre-right parties.
“Over the past few weeks, as the world commemorates Nelson Mandela, an uncomfortable spotlight has been shone on Conservatives who branded the ANC as terrorists in the 1980s,” he says in an article on the UK ConservativeHome website.
“How will today’s crop of Conservative climate refuseniks explain themselves to future generations, in a world made hotter, nasty and poor by global warming?”
NWCE News – : DFO hands over fisheries protection along pipelines to the NEB
As of December 16, 2013, Enbridge no longer has to apply to DFO for permits to alter fish habitat along the Northern Gateway route. It was also on December 16 that Kinder Morgan filed its application with the NEB for the expansion of its pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.
Fish and fish habitat along those pipeline is now the responsibility of the Alberta-based, energy friendly National Energy Board.
On its website, the NEB says Applications submitted to the NEB shall be reviewed under the Fisheries Protection Provisions of the Fisheries Act to determine if impacts shall occur, and if an authorization will be required under the Fisheries Act. The NEB shall also become responsible to determine if proposed projects will impact aquatic species at risk and require permitting under the Species at Risk Act. If the NEB determines than an authorization or permit will be required, DFO shall be notified and will be responsible for issuing the authorization or permit.
JOBS AND ECONOMY
So exactly what are the Tories bragging about? What is their fiscal and economic track record?
For starters, the Harper government has added $176.4 billion to Canada’s debt. In fact, nearly one quarter of Canada’s accumulated debt was amassed on Stephen Harper’s watch and all of that since 2008.
Moreover, Harper’s track record for job creation and economic growth are the worst since another Tory PM was in office — R.B. Bennett. Economic growth has averaged just over 1.5 per cent and declined every year since 2010. Household debt has exploded, thanks in part to 40-year mortgages and zero down payment plans introduced, then rescinded by the Tories. Ill-advised tax cuts to the GST, which helped turn annual $13-billion surpluses into deficits. Over-spending by the three times the rate of inflation, getting rid of fiscal prudence and contingency reserves.
That’s the Harper fiscal record and, unlike the Economic Action Plan ads, it’s not a pretty picture.
Resource revenue states cannot continue operating on the basis of costly old models.
The current trajectories of Canada’s predominant political economies are increasingly dysfunctional, due in no small part to the fact that we have become, in many respects, a petro state, rather than the much vaunted “Energy Superpower” that we were promised.
A petro-state, as defined by Bruce Campbell, executive director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is “dependent on petroleum for 50 percent or more of export revenues, 25 percent or more of GDP, and 25 percent or more of government revenues”.
While Alberta is not a sovereign nation, it does qualify for “petro-state” status under this criterion. So does Norway. But the differences between the two polities end there. While Norway manages its resource wealth extraordinarily well, Alberta – and Canada, by extension – does not.
The job numbers for the end of 2013 could not have been much worse than this. But don’t expect the Harper Conservatives to do anything about it in a February federal Budget which will be all about 2015 pre-election politics.
In December, the Canadian economy lost 60,000 full-time jobs, and the national unemployment rate rose sharply from 6.9 per cent to 7.2 per cent. The youth unemployment rate jumped from 13.4 per cent to 14 per cent.
While the Conservatives have bragged about the strength of the recovery, the proportion of Canadians with jobs was down in December from a year earlier, and the unemployment rate was up, from 7.1 per cent to 7.2 per cent.
In short, no progress was made in 2013.
Whenever faced with bad economic news, the Conservatives claim that Canada leads the G-7 in jobs and economic growth since the recession. They make this misleading statement by using selective statistics.
When population growth and purchasing power are taken into account to get the complete picture, Canada falls behind G-7 countries Germany, Japan and the United States. That’s fourth place (out of 7!).
This is the dark side of Canadian immigration policy. Workers from the developing world are brought to Canada to work for low wages on a temporary basis while immigrants that could set up roots in this country are discouraged. With the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Conservative government is facilitating the worst practises of economic globalization. We’re used to the idea of outsourcing work to another country, but the Conservatives have allowed international outsourcing to occur within our own borders, forcing Canadian workers to compete with an international labour pool that has a far lower standard of living, causing “downward pressure” on wages and discouraging employers from providing training or incentives to hire.
Canada is unique in the world in that our citizens broadly recognize that immigration is necessary for our economic survival. The Conservatives have abused that broad support of immigration. They’ve used it to implement a policy that licks the boots of its corporate donors, providing them with cheap temporary labour, rather than a policy that would help build the country and give immigrants a chance at a better life.
Vivian Bercovici’s elevation from corporate lawyer and part-time journalist to Canadian Ambassador to Israel should come as no surprise. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the market for a political appointee, one who shared his ideology and the nationalist bias of the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Ms. Bercovici’s crystal-clear belief system, as characterized in her writing, had drawing power: simply put, no Arab can be trusted, bent as they universally are on Israel’s annihilation. “Hamas, the [Palestinian Authority] and just about every government in the Middle East make no secret of their collective ideological commitment to the total destrcuction of the state of Israel,” she wrote, in a typical column, less than a year ago. The argument that the new ambassador’s rhetoric may not reflect her more private views, as some commentators are suggesting, seems but another rationalization.
Elections Canada investigators last fall raided an electrical company owned by Dean Del Mastro’s cousin in their investigation of an alleged scheme to direct $22,000 in illegal donations to the MP’s 2008 election campaign.
Documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen show that Elections Canada, aided by computer forensic experts from the RCMP, executed a search warrant on Deltro Electric Ltd. of Mississauga, Ont., on Oct. 9.
The documents contain an allegation that donations to the then-Conservative MP were intended to win favour for his cousin’s hyperbaric medicine clinic and help secure contracts to treat aboriginals.
The investigation was spurred by Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News reports from 2012 in which former employees claimed the company’s owner, David Del Mastro, asked them to make $1,000 donations to his cousin’s campaign, and were then fully reimbursed by Deltro and given $50 bonuses.
The payments would have allowed David Del Mastro to skate around the $1,000-per-person limit on campaign donations in place in 2008.
It is said that the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly and exceedingly fine.
And so it is with Elections Canada.
Investigators from Canada’s electoral watchdog are officially delving into complaints about the 2010 campaign finances of Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino – finally.
The move comes years after receiving affidavits from former members of Fantino’s Electoral District Association in Vaughan, and a third complainant. To that third complainant, Carrie Liddy, word of the investigation is bittersweet.
“Funny how (Elections Canada) has infinite resources to ruin the life of a young man, Michael Sona, who was so far from being the criminal mastermind of robocalls that it’s laughable. And yet they take nearly three years to audit five pages of one of the real masterminds of the government. Secrets, secrets and more secrets. How about a little accountability for a change?”
Chuck Strahl isn’t the only SIRC committee member who has history with oil, gas or Harper
While the head of the watchdog committee overseeing Canada’s intelligence agency is under attack for also being a lobbyist for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, it turns out that half of the other Harper government appointees keeping an eye on the spies also have ties to the oil business.
The committee oversees the activities of Canada’s spy service, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), including surveillance of groups opposed to construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
Strahl has touched off a political controversy for registering with the B.C. government as a lobbyist for Enbridge, the company wanting to build the pipeline.
In a recent television interview, Strahl said he would recuse himself from anything to do with the proposed pipeline that came before the spy service review committee, passing the case to one of the other four members.
But a few of them may have their own problems of perception.
WASTING TAXPAYERS’ MONEY
If the medium is the message, should we be even a little bit surprised that Canada’s sitting government is trying to control the former?
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the launch of a new video series promising to keep Canadians “in the know” with a weekly ration of edited government updates to trumpet Tory achievements.
With “The Maple Leaf Forever” playing in the background, the first episode of “24 Seven” features a highlight reel of the prime minister’s travels from Vancouver to Inuvik and the appointment of Canada’s new ambassador to Israel.
Noticeably absent from the week’s play-by-play is acknowledgement of the prime minister’s run-in with climate change activists, crowds of protesters, and fresh criticism over claims the government is destroying Department of Fisheries and Oceans research.
It’s the sort of prime ministerial propaganda which would’ve had true blue fiscal Conservative heads exploding — had it been done by a Liberal.
Stephen Harper photo-ops are being booked across the country. Advance squads deployed to handpick participants to ensure partisan purity, gender balance and ethnic diversity. Film crews have been hired to document it all. Editors will varnish over any negative optics. And a velvet-voiced narrator will script the action during breaks in the Maple Leaf Forever soundtrack.
It’s PMO TV, a weekly life-of-the-prime-minister feature called 24 Seven, which debuted Thursday on government websites. But it’s clearly propaganda, Stephen Harper-style. And you, the taxpayer, picked up the tab.
(Why is the Harper government using taxpayers’ money to advertise for oil companies??)
OTTAWA—The federal government has tapped an international public relations firm to roll out a $22 million advertising campaign promoting the oilsands and Canada’s natural resource sector across the world.
The Canadian arm of FleishmanHillard has been awarded a $1.695 million contract to oversee the first phase of the ad blitz, expected to be deployed in United States, Europe, and Asia this year.
Should the firm’s contract be extended into 2015, the work could be worth as much as $4 million, with the remaining $18 million budgeted for media buys.
OTTAWA—More than $1.7 billion has already been spent on the elusive effort to upgrade Canada’s helicopter fleet, internal documents show — a clue as to why the Harper government is sticking with the troubled program.
The figure — about 30 per cent of the overall $5.3-billion budget — could have meant a far worse political firestorm for the Conservatives than the one that accompanied the ill-fated plan to buy the F-35 stealth fighter.
In the aftermath of an independent report last fall on the beleaguered plan to buy the CH-148 Cyclone choppers as replacements for Canada’s aging Sea King fleet, the government acknowledged it was looking at other aircraft — even going so far as to meet with other manufacturers
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the money went towards “acquisition progress payments” and “in-service support set-up.” The nearly decade-long program has delivered just four test helicopters that National Defence has refused to formally accept.
CBC – Canada Job Grant ads cost $2.5M for non-existent program
The federal government blanketed the internet with ads and bought pricey TV spots during playoff hockey as part a $2.5-million publicity blitz to promote a skills training program that doesn’t yet exist, CBC News has learned.
TV commercials for the Canada Job Grant often ran twice per game last May during the widely watched Hockey Night in Canada NHL playoff broadcasts on CBC. There were ads on radio, as well. “The Canada Job Grant will result in one important thing – a new or better job,” said the reassuring voice-over in the TV ads.
The problem: The program was never launched and is still on hold. The job grants were announced in the 2013 federal budget, but it called for an agreement with the provinces, which have so far refused to buy in.