Harper Watch, January 22 to 29, 2014


iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Big Oil has BFF in Harper, best stay quiet (if you know what’s good for you

The battle between Neil Young and Stephen Old is a matter of national importance – yet another swift-boating that comes with a revelation.   In the thug state Stephen Harper is busily constructing, Young has become Stephane Dion with a guitar, or Michael Ignatieff with a tambourine – just another opponent of the prime minister to be torn down. In Harper’s one-opinion world, to engage is to destroy, never to discuss.

Young’s offence was to express his opinion and to make a donation. In normal democracies, that would be no big deal. You might agree with the rock-star, you might not. Ninety-nine percent of the time, most wouldn’t even notice. But Canada is no longer a normal democracy.

canada.com (Stephen Maher) – Top oil lobbyist was hired to help negotiate transfer of Experimental Lakes Area

OTTAWA – One of Canada’s most prominent oil lobbyists was hired to advise the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the Experimental Lakes Area, a freshwater research facility that the federal government ordered shut in 2012.

Gerry Protti, a former Encana executive and one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was hired by the department in December 2012 on a three-month “management consulting” contract for $21,000.

Emails obtained under access-to-information legislation show that Protti worked with senior DFO officials as they were negotiating with the organization trying to save the ELA.

In 2012, DFO contacted scientists at the northwestern Ontario facility near Kenora to let them know the government would no longer fund the ELA, which meant that long-term experiments related to environmental contamination of fresh water had to be stopped.

HARPER’S WAR ON VETERANS

Huffington Post – Veterans Affairs Office Closures Trigger Calls For Julian Fantino’s Resignation

A scheduled meeting with a delegation of veterans, at least one from the Second World War, was abruptly cancelled and the group met with senior Conservatives, including MP Laurie Hawn and the minister’s chief of staff.

Just before veterans were set to hold a late evening news conference, Fantino met with them in a basement office on Parliament Hill to reinforce the message that the centres would close on schedule.

“The decision has been made,” Fantino said before leaving for another meeting. “We have found alternate accommodations that we feel will adequately address veterans and their needs.” ….

One veteran, Ron Clarke, said the minister’s brusk and disrespectful treatment has succeeded in alienating him from a core Conservative constituency, and he urged ex-soldiers to take out their frustration at the ballot box in 2015.

“I would like to call for Mr. Fantino’s resignation — or firing,” Clarke said. “Mr. Harper and his Conservatives had best be prepared for the next election. There are two (other) parties who said they’d open our offices, and (soldiers) might want to think about voting for them, but not the Conservatives.”

CBC News – Veterans fighting service cuts felt disrespected at Fantino meeting

Alban LeClair said during an earlier news conference Tuesday that he works with veterans in Prince Edward Island as a Royal Canadian Legion service volunteer.

“I can’t help veterans without assistance of Veterans Affairs,” he said.

Veterans and PSAC members make their way to hold a news conference on Parliament Hill Tuesday, where they called on the government to reconsider its decision to close Veterans Affairs district offices in nine communities.(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“This government keeps saying it’s enhancing services for veterans. It says these closures will not affect services. Well, I can tell you now, that before they started shutting down Charlottetown district office, a veteran could get a home visit within a couple of days. Now it takes up to six weeks to contact the veteran. And six weeks is a long time for a 93-year-old veteran, and even young veterans suffering with PTSD,” he said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.

One veteran teared up as he described what friends were going through as they faced the office closures.

Huffington Post – Tories Face New War With Veterans Over Benefit Clawback

OTTAWA – Canada’s veterans ombudsman and the Royal Canadian Legion are calling on the Harper government to say once and for all whether it will retroactively compensate ex-soldiers whose pensions and benefits were unfairly clawed back.

Veterans Affairs Canada has been silent about whether it will follow National Defence and reimburse those whose earnings loss benefits, income supplements and war veterans allowance cheques were improperly docked.

In May 2012, a Federal Court justice ruled that the federal government was wrong to claw back the military pensions of injured soldiers by the amount of disability payments they received.

Ottawa Citizen – Military has failed to meet mental-health staffing promises

OTTAWA — Canadian armed forces’ mental health facilities across the country are chronically short of skilled professionals and aren’t close to the staffing levels promised in 2012 by then defence minister Peter MacKay, the Citizen has learned.

In what was billed as an “important announcement” MacKay held a media event at Canadian Forces Base Halifax in the fall of 2012 amid early waves of criticism about the military’s handling of its increasing number of mentally injured Afghanistan veterans.

But according to figures updated just last month, current mental health staffing levels are even short — by 62 — of the military’s own staffing target set for 2009.

The figures reveal that the system is short of four psychiatrists, seven psychologists, 23 social workers, 18 mental health nurses, six administrative support staff, three addictions specialists and one manager.

Total staffing among those mental professional groups and support staff stood at 388 in December.

The military’s target for 2009 was a complement of 450 mental health professionals.

CTV News – After veteran’s death, government demands $581 benefits repayment

Just days after the funeral of a Canadian veteran who died of suicide on Christmas Day, her husband received a letter from Veterans Affairs saying the family must repay a portion of her monthly disability cheque.

The letter, dated Jan. 9 — a day after retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern’s husband publicly revealed that her death was in fact a suicide — expresses condolences to the family while asking for a repayment of $581.67.

In an email to CTV News, Tom MacEachern called it “a slap in the face.”

“(I) didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…was breathless actually,” he said.

Huffington Post – Veterans Affairs Office Closures Spark Protests From Ex-Soldiers

OTTAWA – A group of ex-soldiers, some from the Second World War, are trying to step up pressure on the Harper government to halt the closure of Veterans Affairs regional offices.

Offices in Kelowna, B.C., Saskatoon, Brandon, Man., Thunder Bay, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Sydney, N.S., Charlottetown and Corner Brook, N.L., are slated to shut down Friday as part of a move to more online and remote services.

Seven veterans, including Roy Lamore whose service dates back to the 1940s, says he and others feel betrayed by a government that promised to take care of them and younger soldiers.

GOING TO COURT AGAIN

Huffington Post – Canadian Muslim Group Demands Apology From Harper, Top Spokesman

OTTAWA – A major Canadian Muslim group is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his chief spokesman for a comment it says linked the organization to a terrorist group.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that accuses Jason MacDonald of acting maliciously when he made the comment earlier this month.

The council had criticized the inclusion of a controversial rabbi in Harper’s delegation that went to the Middle East last week.

“Rather than responding to our legitimate concerns, the PMO’s director of communications attacked us and attempted to smear our name by claiming NCCM had ‘documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas,'” Ihsaan Gardee, the council’s executive director, told a news conference Tuesday.

Huffington Post – Duffy-Wright Deal: PMO Pays $10K In Legal Fees For Former Staffer

The government has spent $10,500 to cover legal fees for David Van Hemmen, a former staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office, in relation to the RCMP investigation into a payment from former chief of staff Nigel Wright to Senator Mike Duffy.

Confirmation of the payment to Ottawa law firm Carroll and Wallace was included in a sheaf of documents tabled in the House on Monday in response to a written question from New Democrat ethics critic Charlie Angus on the government’s use of outside legal firms.

The amount is listed in the response with the note “RCMP investigation – payment by Nigel Wright to Senator Mike Duffy.”

Van Hemmen served as Wright’s executive assistant throughout the negotiations with the embattled senator to repay his ineligible expense claims. Van Hemmen is mentioned in several emails filed in court by the RCMP last year.

He now works as a policy adviser in the office of Minister of State for Finance Kevin Sorenson.

ISRAEL TRIP

CBC News – Stephen Harper’s visit garners scant coverage or praise from Israeli media

Summing up the visit, today’s editorial cartoon in the English version of Haaretz showed Harper and Netanyahu dancing closely, while a dejected looking leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, looks on.

The left-leaning Haaretz wasn’t impressed. In an analysis piece, its diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid concluded that “the impression Harper left… was that he is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu more than he is a true friend of Israel; that his support for the policies of the government of Israel is blind.”

Huffington Post – Canada’s Palestinian Statehood Stance Cost Tories Votes, Disclosed Letters Suggest 

OTTAWA – The Harper government was flooded with angry letters from Canadians after it opposed the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, newly disclosed documents show.

More than 1,000 letters arrived over several weeks in late 2012 and early 2013 at the offices of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and several other Conservative MPs, the vast majority of them complaining that the government was not representing the balanced and fair-minded views of Canadian citizens on the divisive Middle East issue.

More than 80 per cent of the correspondence expressed clear opposition to the Conservative government’s own vocal attempts to block the Palestinian bid for greater recognition at the UN.

Toronto Star (Heather Mallick) – Stephen Harper goes over the top in Israel
(This is a MUST READ article.  A good laugh, lots of information and deconstruction of twisted logic.)
“He touched my hand!!” a woman yelled out in delight as Stephen Harper toured the Western Wall, or, I assume, the part of the wall where women are welcome. The female journalists’ view was not as good as that of the men covering Harper, reported Lee-Anne Goodman of Canadian Press who, as a Canadian journalist, was presumably in a distant enclosure anyway.   I became very excited. “Ask someone to touch his hair!” I tweeted desperately. “Does it feel cakelike?”……

Harper has said a number of dubious things on this trip. The silliest was this: “Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.” That’s how you talk to a two-year-old boy who doesn’t want to wear pants to school.  But that fruit hangs low.

Here’s the most uneducated thing: Harper claimed Canada is the “polar opposite of Israel” as it has “much geography but very little history.” The state of Israel is 65 years old, Canada is 147 and humans first arrived on this continent perhaps 16,000 years ago. If you want to know about First Nations history in what is now Canada, read Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. That’s right, a book.

The Star (Olivia Ward) – Harper’s foreign policy hits rough weather in Canada

It’s been a rough month for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s foreign policy, with three controversial incidents churning up stormy sentiments among Canadians as well as some overseas.

First there was Harper’s statement that he welcomed Egypt’s “return to stability” after the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi, a surprise to pro-democracy Egyptians, as well as human rights advocates and imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.

Then criticism roiled over a Washington speech by Foreign Minister John Baird, who referred to the body of water between Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states as the “Arabian Gulf” rather than the long-accepted Persian Gulf, and sparked a demonstration by irate Iranian-Canadians.

And on Tuesday, Harper and his chief spokesman, Jason MacDonald, were slapped with a libel notice by the National Council of Canadian Muslims after it said MacDonald described the group as having “documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.” The council had earlier criticized the inclusion of a Toronto rabbi on Harper’s recent Mideast trip because the rabbi had introduced and praised two controversial American anti-Muslim campaigners who spoke in Toronto.

JUSTICE

iPolitics – One law for the rich, another for everyone else
The Conservative government’s criminal justice agenda found little support in Canadian courts last year. Minimum sentences were struck down, judges were in open revolt over mandatory victim fines and the country’s top court declared Canada’s prostitution laws unconstitutional.

This year may not prove to be any better for the law-and-order party. This month, the Supreme Court of Canada is weighing in on yet another plank in the government’s ‘tough on crime’ policy platform: Bill C-25.

C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, imposes strict limits on the amount of credit that an offender can receive for time spent in jail before a verdict (also known as ‘pre-sentence’ custody). Historically — and for very good reasons — judges retained the discretion to determine the amount of credit an offender could receive for time spent in custody prior to conviction. This credit could then be applied to reduce the offender’s ultimate sentence. Depending on the circumstances of the offender — and the conditions he or she experienced in jail — one day of pre-sentence custody could reduce the ultimate sentence by as much as three days.

FRAUD

Canadian Business News – CBSA lawyer: Government was “perpetuating a fraud” on iPod tax: Mike Moffatt
(The government said what was politically advantageous, Canadian Border Services Agency tells it like it really is.  In other words, another big fat lie on the part of the Harper regime.)
On the afternoon of April 4th, 2013 I published an article (no longer available online) at the Globe and Mail detailing how changes to the 2013 Budget created an iPod tax, placing a tariff on MP3 players manufactured in China where one did not exist before. Minister Flaherty’s office, the Finance Department and the Conservative Party would all claim that these items could come in tariff free using a provision in the tariff code, 9948.00.00 (9948), which allows for the duty-free importation of computer equipment through the use of end-use certificates, where the “end user” of the item could attest that they would use the item as a computer part. Documents obtained this weekend through the access to information reveal that these arguments were being made despite the vehement objections of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the agency that enforces tariff regulations. One CBSA official went as far as describing the government’s 9948 argument as “perpetuating a fraud”.

WASTING TAX DOLLARS

Canada.com (Mike De Souza) – Harper government used cash advance to pay for ads touting environmental credentials
(Marvellous Mike De Souza – always digging up new dirt on the Harper regime.)
The federal government had to dip into a senior bureaucrat‘s special reserve fund for a cash advance before it could launch a $9.5 million advertising campaign that responded to criticism about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2012 budget, says an internal government memorandum.Canada.com – Harper government used cash advance to pay for ads touting environmental credentials.

“The advertising campaign is designed to demonstrate the tremendous opportunity for Canada to capitalize on its resource potential, to create jobs and growth in a period of global economic uncertainty while maintaining high environmental protection standards,” said the memo to Dupont, dated July 12, 2012, from a senior official in charge of communications and marketing. “Without the $4M repayable cash advance, (the marketing division) will be unable to proceed contractually with a portion of the advertising campaign.”

The ads began running after environmental groups and opposition parties criticized the 2012 budget and its supporting legislation for rewriting several Canadian conservation laws, eliminating about 3,000 environmental assessments of industrial projects and cutting hundreds of jobs related to scientific monitoring of industrial air and water pollution.

Huffington Post – Advertising Standards Canada: No Sanctions For False Government Ads

OTTAWA – Government advertisers are free to blatantly misrepresent services or programs without public censure from the ad industry’s self-regulatory watchdog, so long as they stop airing the offending ads after citizens complain.

The Conservative government’s $2.5 million campaign last spring to promote the Canada Jobs Grant, a proposed job-training program that still doesn’t exist almost a year later, is a case in point.

Both Global News and PostMedia News have revealed that Advertising Standards Canada, the “national, not-for-profit, advertising self-regulatory body,” chided the government for the misleading ads, which were in heavy rotation last spring — including during pricey NHL playoff telecasts.

Not so fast, says a spokeswoman for the self-regulatory council.

Globe and Mail – Tories under fire for doubling spending on regional offices for travelling ministers

The Conservative government has doubled spending on regional offices that support travelling cabinet ministers, prompting accusations that service delivery to citizens is taking a back seat to public relations.

Newly released government documents show the number of “Ministers Regional Offices” has grown from 12 to 17 over the past five years, with one new office in Yellowknife costing $821,443 last year to set up.

Ministers’ Regional Offices are scattered across the country for the purpose of supporting all cabinet ministers who travel through that particular part of the country for government business.

Documents show federal spending on regional offices has increased from $1.9-million in 2008-09 to $4.1-million in 2012-13, an increase of 116 per cent. The actual total amounts are higher because the figures only include operational expenditures, including salaries. The office lease amounts are not included.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who obtained the figures this week in response to a written question in the House of Commons, questioned the expansion of ministerial offices during a period of spending cuts – including to regional offices that service veterans.

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEES

Canadian Business – INFOGRAPHIC: Harper’s record on immigration doesn’t match his new narrative

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told members of Vancouver’s ethnic media that the temporary foreign worker program has not gone as planned. “We have seen very blatant examples of companies using this in ways that were not in the interest of Canadians,” he said. According to Harper, while temporary workers are necessary in parts of Western Canada, “there must be plans for companies to transition to permanent workforces.

“If you really need temporary workers permanently then that means we need permanent workers who become Canadian,” Harper said. “They have a right to stay here and they have a right to bargain with their employer and they have a right to be treated fairly and not just sent back to where they came from the first time they don’t like something.”

Opposition leader Tom Mulcair shot back, telling The Vancouver Sun that if Harper “has truly changed his mind on temporary foreign workers, he should apologize to all those who have been hurt by this program.” Indeed, while Harper’s impassioned argument certainly sounds reasonable, it also hints at a change of heart. Under his government, temporary foreign workers more than doubled while the number of permanent residents entering Canada barely budged. The numbers don’t lie. Take a look:

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers – Myth Busting
Challenging the Myths: the Truth About Canadian Refugee Law

The Federal government’s refugee laws and policies are shrouded by myths and misinformation. The circulation of these myths is one of the biggest barriers to understanding the issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees in Canada. This page highlights some common myths about refugees to correct the record and provide accurate information.

CBC News – Chris Alexander scolds Ontario over health care to refugees

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews says it will cost Ontario $20M to fill gap in health care.   “I’ve expressed our government’s disappointment with the Ontario government’s recent decision to reinstate health-care benefits to all asylum seekers and even rejected refugee claimants,” Alexander said.  “Simply arriving on our shores and claiming hardships isn’t good enough. This isn’t a self-selection bonanza, or a social program buffet.”

Huffington Post – Kathleen Wynne: Ottawa ‘Irresponsible’ To Leave Some Refugees Without Health Care

TORONTO – Ontario is providing health care coverage for refugee claimants because the federal government abdicated its responsibility, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday, earning a quick rebuke from Ottawa.

“The reality is our health providers are going to help people anyway,” said Wynne.

Defending Ontario’s decision to extend health care benefits to newcomers who were cut off by the federal government 18 months ago, Wynne said it would be wrong to leave some refugee claimants without access to care.

“We have, as a province, said this is unacceptable,” she said. “The people who have been getting the services through the federal program will now be eligible to get services through a provincial program, because it is irresponsible of us … as a society not to provide these services.”

Toronto Star – Chris Alexander shows his callous side
(Good for the Ontario government. They are refusing to enforce the new rules withdrawing health care to refugee claimants.)
There was a brief surge of optimism among humanitarian groups when Chris Alexander was named minister of citizenship and immigration six months ago. The Ajax MP spent 18 years as a diplomat, served as Canada’s first resident ambassador in Afghanistan and went on to become a special representative of the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan.  He was well-spoken and well-educated. He had seen suffering in war torn countries. He was the father of two young children.

“There was hope that the government might decide to change the discourse,” said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. It gradually dissipated. The last thread snapped a week ago when Alexander lambasted Ontario for its “scandalous” decision to provide medical care to “bogus” asylum seekers.   “It’s irresponsible,” he railed. “It’s also unfair to for taxpayers.”

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST…

Huffington Post – Chuck Strahl, Former Tory Minister, Steps Down As CSIS Watchdog Chair

In his resignation letter, Strahl said he retired from politics three years ago and did not “wish to be in the centre of the political fray. Nor do I want to be a distraction from the important work SIRC does everyday in ensuring the security of Canadians.”

Harper said in a statement Friday that Strahl “has submitted his resignation to me, and I have accepted it, effective immediately.”

Review committee member Deborah Grey, a former MP, will serve as interim chairman.

The Conservatives, as usual, take action only after they’re caught, said NDP House leader Nathan Cullen.

“The timing of this resignation shows that the Conservatives realized they had a new scandal on their hands. A government that’s proud of its actions, doesn’t make an announcement like this on a Friday evening.”

…AND ANOTHER ONE CHOKES ON IT

 Huffington Post – Tory MP Maurice Vellacott Rebels Against Government ‘Muzzling’

OTTAWA — The winter sitting of Parliament got off to a subdued start Monday, with the fiercest attack on the government coming from one of its own Conservative backbenchers.

Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott gave notice of a motion aimed at preventing the government from muzzling backbenchers by blocking their private members’ bills and motions.

The motion would reform the current system, in which a handful of MPs on a Conservative-dominated sub-committee get to decide which private members’ business will be put to a vote in the House of Commons.

“That kind of muzzling is a blight on democracy,” Vellacott said in a written statement, calling the process “arbitrary,” “capricious” and open to political interference.

ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

Canada.com – Library cuts in more than a dozen government departments trigger fears of lost knowledge
“With libraries closing, there’s content in those libraries that’s no longer available to the users — be they researchers, members of the public, people who are developing policy in government departments — and that’s always worrying,” said Marie DeYoung, president of the Canadian Library Association and librarian at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson Remi Lariviere confirmed that the department’s library materials “are housed offsite with a private sector provider” in Laval, Que. He said the closure of the department library saves taxpayers about $200,000 a year and rejected suggestions that they are inaccessible to researchers.

A handful of departments reported plans to digitize documents and close libraries in an effort to save money and a follow-up survey of departments by Postmedia News this month shows that more have since decided to eliminate or consolidate their libraries.
The Canadian Revenue Agency; Citizenship and Immigration; Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Parks Canada; the Public Service Commission; Public Works and Government Services Canada; and Transport Canada had plans to shut down or consolidate libraries in 2012, while Environment Canada; Health Canada; the Transportation Safety Board; and the Canadian Transportation Agency made similar decisions more recently.

New York Times – Librarians Protest Canada Cutbacks

CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island — A move by the Canadian government to shrink the number of its departmental research libraries is drawing fire from some academics, who fear a loss of data and trained personnel and damage to the country’s ability to carry out research.

The closing of seven regional libraries in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the quiet elimination of more than two dozen libraries in other departments, might otherwise have passed largely unnoticed, given the modest cost savings.

According to government documents, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates that the consolidation will save 443,000 Canadian dollars, or about $405,000, in 2014-15.

But government scientists, university researchers, and librarians say the manner of the downsizing, which they charge was conducted with little consultation, contradicts government reassurances that taxpayer-funded reports and research documents would be preserved and digitized for online access.

Vancouver Sun – Conservatives slashing jobs and spending in bid to balance budget

OTTAWA — Embassies are being sold, government libraries closed, thousands of public sector jobs eliminated and billions of dollars are going unspent in the name of one broader Harper government goal: eliminating the deficit.

The Conservative government’s unflinching efforts to balance the books and eliminate a deficit estimated at $17.9 billion will drive a federal budget many believe is likely to be delivered in mid-February — when public attention is focused on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Approximately $10 billion of authorized budgetary expenditures have gone unspent each of the past three years, with the government forecasting departments and agencies will spend $7 billion less than authorized in the current 2013-14 fiscal year. (This is a great way to make themselves look good by announcing that funds have been allocated to specific initiatives but in reality the money is never actually spent – HW)

“This government is hell-bent to do a lot of cuts, but they’re not doing them with any rhyme or reason. They’re just slashing,” said Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the country’s largest federal public sector union.

“They’re setting themselves up for the election,” Benson added. “They think that Canadians will forget everything that they’ve done because they will infuse some money somewhere to say how good they are.”

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

Ottawa Citizen – Op-Ed: Harper’s economic index: an 8-year report card

Eight years after the January, 2006 election that brought the Conservatives to power under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Alex Roberts looks at the state of the Canadian economy. Not to be confused with the Harper’s Magazine’s monthly index of “ironic statistics arranged for thoughtful effect.”

Canada.com – Government stonewalling on impact of budget cuts, watchdog says

The PBO has yet to receive large amounts of service-level information from several major federal departments and agencies — whose combined budgets are in the tens of billions of dollars — that can provide Canadians with a clear picture on the fallout of the 2012 budget cuts.

Effectively, the PBO still doesn’t have any real sense of how more than $5 billion in budget cuts are affecting federal programs and services across government, officials said. Nor has there been any official government response about why the PBO hasn’t been provided the information.

The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is unable to fulfil its mandate if it can’t obtain the information it has repeatedly requested, Frechette said.

Maclean’s – Why the so-called Canada Job Grant isn’t working

Schemes to place hard-to-employ young people in jobs tend to come and go. BladeRunners is the exception. The British Columbia program has been around since 1994, long enough that even its managers aren’t entirely clear on how it got its name—and for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to single it out as a proven model. BladeRunners helps unemployed 15- to 30-year-olds—mostly Aboriginal, sometimes homeless, often with histories of substance abuse—learn basic skills and land several key weeks of job experience. Counsellors are on call around the clock when participants run into the inevitable problems.

It sounds like the sort of feel-good program any politician might rush to line up behind. But the B.C. provincial government cites BladeRunners as a prime example of the kind of training that the federal Conservatives are out to cut. At issue is the so-called Canada Job Grant (CJG), announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty with considerable fanfare in last year’s federal budget. Under the CJG, Flaherty proposed that the federal government, the provinces and employers each pay a third of up to $15,000 a year for every employee enrolled for training at an eligible institution. But there was a catch: The federal government’s $300-million share was to be taken out of the $500 million a year Ottawa transfers to provinces under existing labour-market agreements—the main source of BladeRunners’ $6-million budget

The Star – Payroll taxes up despite low-tax claims by Jim Flaherty

Conservatives taking in billions of dollars more in EI premiums than they pay out in EI benefits.

OTTAWA—Despite the Conservatives’ oft-heard statement that they have lowered taxes, Canadian workers are handing over more in payroll taxes—as much as $180-a-year more as a result of increases in Employment Insurance (EI) premiums under Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

In the upcoming federal budget, Flaherty will be sure to point out that, beginning in 2017, the Conservatives want EI premiums set on a seven-year break-even track, which is expected to reduce what workers and employers send to Ottawa to pay for EI.

But in the meantime, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is using increased EI premiums to help eliminate Ottawa’s deficit.

The Star – Stephen Harper’s income-splitting plan would favour rich, tax study finds

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds the vast majority of Canadian families would see no benefit, while the richest would cash in.

The Harper government’s plan to introduce income splitting for families with children would be a gift to the country’s richest households and make income inequality worse, says a new study being released Tuesday.

About 86 per cent of all Canadian families would gain no benefit from the proposed tax loophole, while it would cost taxpayers as a whole almost $5 billion, according to the report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives being released Tuesday.

“Income splitting creates a tax loophole big enough to drive a Rolls Royce through,” says the report’s author David Macdonald, senior economist for the non-profit, left-leaning policy think-tank.

“It’s pitched as a program for the middle class, but in reality it’s an expensive tax gift for the rich,” he says in the report titled, “Income Splitting in Canada: Inequality by Design.”

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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