For years now, since I first glommed onto what the Neo Cons were up to, it has been glaringly obvious to me that the Harper regime has one overwhelming determination; that is not to govern. Choose any area of Canadian legislation you like and it will instantly reveal another piece of the scheme to dismantle Canadian safety, security, research, heritage, arts, social planning. The Omnibus budget bills are designed to hide government intentions and avoid House of Commons debate, for without debate, governance cannot take place.
Indonesian author, Toba Beta, said that “Your arrogance doesn’t cheapen me.” Well in Canada, right now, the opposite appears to be the case and we, as citizens, are being cheapened every day. Federal arrogance towards two respected institutions — the military and the election observers — should have the result of an angered citizenry ready to make things right.
This government is banking on the reality that we don’t have the courage, the dedication for a long struggle, or even the will to raise our collective voice. These present actions might well put one of the last nails in the coffin of citizen engagement or will resurrect it. It all depends of whether we care enough for our defenders in the battlefields and the ballot boxes. If we don’t rise up, they lose and all that arrogance will have won the day.
ELECTION RULE CHANGES – ARE YOU SCARED YET? YOU SHOULD BE
Opposition critics say they’ll be scouring the fine print when the Conservative government introduces legislation Tuesday morning to overhaul Elections Canada….. Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for democratic reform, told the House of Commons on Monday that he’d consulted with the chief electoral officer before the new bill was drafted. “I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened carefully to all of his ideas,” said Poilievre. Not so, Elections Canada confirmed just minutes later. “The chief electoral officer has not been consulted, and we heard the minister’s comments,” said spokesman John Enright.
The Conservative government is stripping Elections Canada of its authority to encourage Canadians to vote in federal ballots under changes to the agency’s mandate.
Legislation tabled this week sets out restrictions on what information the chief electoral officer can provide the public, limiting it to five matter-of-fact topics related to how to vote or become a candidate.
OTTAWA – The governing Conservatives moved Wednesday to cut short debate on a new election bill that critics say helps the Tories and weakens oversight by Elections Canada.
House Leader Peter Van Loan gave notice Wednesday afternoon, a day after the 242-page bill was tabled, that the government will vote to send the bill to committee on Thursday, a move that seemed to signal the government plans to push the bill through the legislative process without changes.
Earlier Wednesday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair predicted the government would cut short debate, denounced the Conservatives as “serial cheaters” and accused them of rigging the rules in their favour.
But the risk an election could be annulled depends upon electors discovering the fraud in time to do something about it, and Bill C-23 would make it far less likely to occur.
This is because the Bill would prohibit the Chief Electoral Officer from blowing the whistle on voter fraud, as he did in March 2013. Section 18 of the Bill strips the Chief Electoral Officer of his right to use “the media or other means” to “provide the public … with information relating to Canada’s electoral process, the democratic right to vote and how to be a candidate.” The Chief Electoral Officer would be explicitly precluded from speaking of such matters.
By muzzling the Chief Electoral Officer, the government is seeking to keep key information about voter fraud from electors. This will make it far less likely that a government will have to contend with a timely judicial inquiry into voter fraud, thus obviating the need to again engage in “trench warfare” to prevent such a case from being heard in court.
One might have thought that when the Conservative government finally got around to reforming election law, it would be to try to prevent the kind of voter suppression and electoral fraud Canada saw in the 2011 election. But when they said they would make it harder to break the rules, it seems they were talking about cracking down on homeless voters, not party bagmen.
Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform, claimed the changes will “increase democracy.” Twenty-four hours later, Poilievre moved on Wednesday to cut off the democratic debate about the bill in the House of Commons.
On Thursday, the Harper government shut down the debate.
This is just the beginning of the government’s doublespeak on this file.
TOUGH ON CRIME?
OTTAWA – The RCMP is considering “significant cuts” to police services which include a resource centre for missing children and a national sex offender registry, according to a briefing note for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.
National Police Services are provided by the RCMP to gather criminal information and share intelligence with 500 police and criminal justice agencies across Canada.
SPYING ON YOU
Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian told the CBC it’s “unbelievable” CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians saying it “resembles the activities of a totalitarian state.”
Earlier this week, interim federal privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier said the CSEC should tell Canadians more about what it’s doing.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s dubious score to date: two spy watchdog chairs and two resignations in less than two years.
Stephen Harper is about as adept at picking spy watchdogs as he is at picking senators.
More evidence of his abysmal record arrived late last Friday when Chuck Strahl, the chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, suddenly announced his resignation from the part-time post watching over Canada’s civilian spy service, CSIS.
Strahl, a former Reform/Canadian Alliance MP and Tory cabinet minister, left the job in the wake of conflict of interest allegations that arose after it was revealed that while he was SIRC chair he had lobbied the federal government on the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline. (CSIS has reportedly monitored native and environmental groups opposed to the development. Indeed, SIRC is stacked with members closely aligned to the oil patch.)
OTTAWA — A little-known federal office of barely two dozen people is charged with overseeing $230 billion worth of proposed natural resource projects across Canada and helping get aboriginal groups onside, but it’s facing criticism of being too heavy-handed and secretive.
The Major Projects Management Office is responsible for overarching management of federal environmental and regulatory reviews of what are currently 76 projects representing approximately $231 billion in potential new resource development investment across Canada.
VANCOUVER – The federal government has lost its bid to overturn a British Columbia court decision that recognized First Nations’ rights to a commercial fishery.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Ottawa’s application on Thursday for leave to appeal the lower court decisions, bringing an end a long legal fight with five of the Nuu-chah-nulth nations of Vancouver Island.
A Saskatchewan First Nations group is cutting dozens of staff because it says Ottawa has cut its funding by $1.1-million.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations told employees Tuesday that 66 of them will be laid off by March 31.
FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde said the group had $875,000 chopped from its budget last fiscal year and this new round of cuts has forced the organization’s hand.
Bellegarde said the cuts will diminish the FSIN’s ability to analyze legislation and get legal opinions.
He says it will also mean the organization will have to reduce its number of vice chiefs.
In September, 2012, the federal government announced it would be capping core funding for regional aboriginal organizations like FSIN at $500,000.
Last year, the federal government also cut discretionary funding to aboriginal groups by 30 per cent.
“You basically weaken the voice of First Nation people across Canada,” said Bellegarde.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the government was taking action to address safety issues, including increased pipeline inspections, a doubling of comprehensive audits and the introduction of new tools to make it easier to impose fines. In a statement sent on Tuesday, Oliver also said the government was monitoring the situation and ready to help if necessary.
But opposition critics were skeptical about the recent safety record of pipeline companies and federal efforts to monitor their activity. TransCanada’s brand new Keystone line in the U.S. has experienced more than a dozen incidents in its first few months of operation on both sides of the border.
“We don’t have to depend on luck when public protection is involved. We should have structures involved,” Mulcair said, adding that there has been a surge “in the number of accidents, whether it’s by rail, or by pipeline.”
Liberal environment critic John McKay was also skeptical about the company’s claims of having a world-class safety record.
“I’m sure they’re far better than the Russians,” McKay said. “I’m a world class hockey player compared to some guys who can’t skate. It’s one of those phrases that mean nothing.”
VETERANS – THE WAR CONTINUES
The mall cop has a way of coming out in Julian Fantino. He probably treated adolescent shoplifters with more respect than he showed Canadian war veterans last week. But last week, Fantino did something I personally didn’t think was possible. He made the CEO of Canada Post look like a new-age, sensitive guy….. Need help? Go to a Canada Service Centre and see if you can find someone trained to assist you. Feeling suicidal? Go online. The very important man seemed to have forgotten that at least one of the veterans he stood up at that meeting was fighting fascists before Julian got his first pair of shiny boots. The minister was not talking to a bunch of office go-fers, but the senior partners of the Conservative party’s core support.
“The 88 year old who fought the Nazis, he managed to make it on time. The soldier from Afghanistan with the shrapnel in his brain, he managed to make it on time. Whereas Fantino, he was a no show.” Mercer said. “Julian, you’re a public servant. Try acting like one.”
The Guardian – Case worker says federal government not being honest Michelle Bradley says the federal government isn’t being completely honest with Island veterans when it comes to closing the district office in Charlottetown…. Island veteran Alban LeClair said he doesn’t even know how to find the person working at the Canfield building. “She doesn’t even have a phone number where people can reach her,’’ LeClair said. “The only way to reach anybody is to call Saint John and it’s very difficult to get any information from her because all our files, all of the P.E.I. veterans’ files, have gone to Saint John.’’
Julian Fantino, the embattled veterans affairs minister who came under pressure to resign this week following a testy meeting with former soldiers, said he had no plans to step down and that the closures would proceed.
Long-time Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant, whose Ontario riding includes Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, put an even finer point on the government’s message.
The widely held belief among soldiers that admitting to post-traumatic stress can jeopardize their careers is little more than a figment of their imaginations, she told the House.
“We’re not interested,” Paul Davis said. “He doesn’t mean it from the heart.”
Second World War Veteran Roy Lamore called Fantino’s apology a performance that was “ridiculous, stupid and the worst thing” he has ever heard.
“It’s too late,” Ron Clarke said. The Vietnam veteran had called for Mr. Fantino’s resignation, or firing Tuesday night after the “unbelievable, unacceptable and shameful meeting.”
“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.”
OTTAWA – Some Canadian soldiers given medical discharges find they don’t qualify for benefits because Veterans Affairs uses different, more stringent criteria in an “unfair” process, the military ombudsman told a Senate committee Wednesday.
Pierre Daigle, whose term ends in a few weeks, said many ex-soldiers have to fight to prove that the conditions that made them ineligible to serve are in fact a result of their service.
Once they are released, Veterans Affairs demands that the ill and injured be subject to a separate assessment above and beyond whatever examination has been conducted at National Defence.
For veterans it can be a bureaucratic conundrum that often leads to a denial of benefits and a lengthy appeals process.
“This is an area of unfairness which needs to be looked at,” Daigle said.
IN THE HARPER CROSSHAIRS
The Canada Revenue Agency is currently conducting extensive audits on some of Canada’s most prominent environmental groups to determine if they comply with guidelines that restrict political advocacy, CBC News has learned.
If the CRA rules that the groups exceeded those limits, their charitable status could be revoked, which would effectively shut them down.
Many of the groups are among the Conservative government’s fiercest critics. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signalled clearly in his budget of 2012 that political activity of these groups would be closely monitored and he allocated $8 million to the effort. The environmental organizations believe they have been targeted with the goal of silencing their criticism.
“We’re concerned about what appears to be an increase in audits around political activity and in particular around environmental organizations,” said Marcel Lauzière, president of Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for charities.
“There’s a big chill out there with what charities can and cannot do.”
As backers of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) struggled on Tuesday to convince a Senate committee that public backing of the broadcaster is crucial to the country, an internal memo from the broadcaster warned its future is in jeopardy.
The memo from CBC president Hubert Lacroix, obtained by Sun News, warns of “dark clouds on the horizon” as the broadcaster faces financial problems due to low ratings — a situation made worse by the CBC’s loss last year of the NHL broadcast contract to Rogers.
“On Monday, I informed the board that we are projecting significant financial challenges,” Lacroix told staffers, as quoted by Sun.
(“Efforts” meaning cuts to foreign aid programs)
OTTAWA – Foreign aid advocates are fearful the Conservative government is planning to make even deeper cuts to foreign aid in next week’s budget.
A coalition of non-governmental organizations, including the Canadian chapter of Engineers Without Borders and the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, has launched an online petition urging the government to spare foreign aid from the chopping block.
TAX DOLLARS: WASTED OR WORSE
It’s costing the federal government more than $22,000 to dispose of books and research material from Fisheries and Oceans scientific libraries across the country, according to new documents.
The information comes from the office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea. It was prompted by a request from Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay last October, after reports surfaced that seven Fisheries and Oceans libraries were being closed and the materials destroyed.
“These numbers prove it that was a destructive process,” said MacAulay in an interview with CBC News.
(Talk about a waste of taxpayer dollars!)
Newly disclosed documents from Industry Canada show how teams of bureaucrats often work for weeks to sanitize each lowly tweet, in a medium that’s supposed to thrive on spontaneity and informality. Most 140-character tweets issued by the department are planned weeks in advance; edited by dozens of public servants; reviewed and revised by the minister’s staff; and sanitized through a 12-step protocol, the documents indicate.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Income splitting is a tax gift to Canada’s rich: study Eighty-six percent of Canadian families would gain no benefit from the proposed Conservative income splitting plan, says a new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)…. The study finds seven out of ten senior families get no benefit at all from pension income splitting and the richest 10% of senior families receive more than the bottom 70% combined. The cost of pension income splitting for senior couples in 2015 is estimated at $1.7 billion ($1.2 billion federally and $500 million provincially). In contrast, it would cost $1.5 billion a year to lift all Canadian seniors out of poverty.
National Newswatch – Western think tank praises Trudeau’s Senate reform plan, disses Harper Justin Trudeau’s decision to boot senators out of the Liberal caucus is being hailed as more in western Canada’s interests than Stephen Harper’s “misguided” efforts to democratize the unelected chamber. And that verdict is coming from a most surprising quarter: a think tank that has championed an elected Senate for decades and is based in the prime minister’s hometown, Calgary. The irony of the Canada West Foundation endorsing Trudeau’s plan for Senate reform while criticizing Harper’s is almost jaw-dropping.