(Thank you for the mention Ms. Mallick. Our stats flew up in numbers and reach!)
I object to the Harper government for many reasons (harperwatch.wordpress.com provides a good listing service): damage to water, earth and sky via the tarsands, love of pipelines, no census, mandatory jail sentencing, service shrinkage, rubber-stamp Senate appointments, no harm reduction for drug users, the push for salesmanship over foreign aid, turning the Immigration Minister into judge and jury for deportations, silencing of scientists, rail safety deregulation, demonization of public servants, effective banning of strikes, contempt for women’s rights, proroguing of Parliament, voter suppression, plans for socially divisive income-splitting, and many more issues.
But I wouldn’t object to the above on principle if they were arrived at democratically, without abusing the absolute power given to the winner in our bizarre political system, without disrespecting the courts, without giving one the feeling that one no longer lives in an organized society based on the rule of law.
Does anyone seriously believe that Conservative MPs are getting fan-mail over the atrocious disrespect the Harper government has shown to soldiers, ex-soldiers and their families? After all, the PM once said these soldiers were the best of Canadians. Is it likely these silent MPs will be greeted with brass bands when they return to their ridings?
The Harper government spent $28 million promoting the War of 1812 for political purposes — but for living soldiers the same government cut $35 million from Veterans Affairs and closed much-needed veterans centres.
To make sense of the many disparate provisions in the Conservatives’ sprawling 242-page Fair Elections Act, the first question to ask of each is not whether it is good or bad but: what problem was this intended to solve?
God knows we have enough real problems with how we run elections. The bill was born of the mess of the 2011 election, with its multiple allegations of voter fraud, including but not limited to the infamous robocalls affair: still unsolved, two years later, despite a Federal Court judge’s finding that, indeed, mass fraud had occurred. A partial list would also include the vast and needless expense of modern election campaigns, and the consequent diversion of party energies, rhetoric and policy to the ceaseless quest to raise funds. And, despite or perhaps because of all of these frenetic efforts to “reach out” to the electorate, the constant decline in turnout.
(The first comment below the article, complete with YouTube clip, captures the essence of the Harper and Ritz team)
Remember the “market freedom” the Harper Government was congratulating itself so heartily for delivering to Western Canada’s grain farmers a few weeks ago?
To create that “freedom,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and the trained seals in the federal Tory caucus have all but killed the Canadian Wheat Board. Now the freedom they boast about is killing the prices farmers get for their grain and enriching railroads and multinational food corporations.
Gee, who’d have predicted that?
THE UNFAIR ELECTIONS ACT
(Mayrand is a true diplomat and gentleman – worlds apart from Pee Pee Poilievre)
Evan Solomon discusses the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act with Marc Mayrand. Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer has several concerns about the bill, and what the changes being proposed would mean for the state of Canada’s democracy.
OTTAWA – The massive overhaul of the Elections Act proposed by the Conservative government may effectively muzzle and sideline Canada’s electoral referee-in-chief, says Marc Mayrand.
In his first public comments on the proposed legislation, the chief electoral officer said Thursday he will need weeks to fully understand the details of the 242-page bill — which alters everything from the rules on voting eligibility to how election fraud is investigated.
“My understanding is that I will be able to speak only on three aspects … how, where and when to vote. That’s basically it,” he said following a committee meeting on Parliament Hill.
Once this bill is law, Canada’s chief electoral officer will have felt the castrator’s blade. Worse, Harper will have ruined another officer of Parliament who dared do his job, with the extra bonus that one more independent source of information has been institutionally decommissioned.
How odd that the very people who were called “serial cheaters” this week by Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair are now rewriting the mandate of the office that runs elections and vouches for their integrity. The people who were the problem are providing the solution, which in normal language is called being judge in your own cause. A dubious principle in law and politics.
You have to admire Pierre Poilievre. Throughout the tabling of the laughable, lamentable Fair Elections Act, the minister of democratic reform managed somehow to keep a straight face.
Many others who witnessed the Tory government’s assault on Elections Canada had much more trouble hiding their disbelief.
The new legislation is full of changes to the electoral landscape. It removes powers from the office of the chief electoral officer and gives them to a new independent commissioner of elections, who will now be solely responsible for investigating electoral transgressions.
A government press release on the Act says that “Each time someone votes fraudulently, they cancel out the ballot of an honest voter.” New voter identification rules are designed to ‘crack down’ on the supposed problem of electoral fraud. But in a blog post published Sunday, Yale law student Adam Goldenberg argued the Fair Elections Act may even be unconstitutional.
According to Goldenberg, there is a legal ‘test’ of whether or not something is constitutional and reasonable infringement of Charter rights.
(Trudeau also makes an excellent point in the article)
OTTAWA—Parliamentary committees won’t be escaping the Ottawa winter any time soon.
In response to the government’s refusal to hold cross country hearings on the Fair Elections Act, the New Democrats denied consent to approve the travel budget for House of Commons committees.
“It’s the first time in Canadian history, it’s unprecedented that a government would use its majority to shut down debate on fundamental changes to Canada’s election law,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair Wednesday.
OTTAWA — In a private address to Elections Canada staff on Wednesday, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand denounced the government’s electoral reform plans as retaliation for Elections Canada’s past clashes with the Conservative Party.
Mayrand drew loud applause from a large group of assembled employees when he vowed he would not resign from the top job and planned to stay on until the next election, expected in 2015.
FIRST NATIONS: STILL WAITING
Call after call has gone out for a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances, but to no avail. From the national to the global stage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has given a flat-out no to the likes of the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, the Assembly of First Nations, church groups and a host of other organizations that have suggested he convene a panel to study the issue. His reason, he said last year, is that he does not think it would help solve the problem.
When Stephen Harper apologized to the First Nations five years ago for residential schools and the lasting harm they caused, there was hope of a new direction for aboriginal education.
But the newly proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA) is drawing an overwhelmingly negative reaction from aboriginal leaders and educators, and criticism that the government plan lacks vision and flexibility.
WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS? (HINT: Starts with CON)
A flicker of hesitation crossed Finance Minister Jim Flaherty‘s face as he paused to formulate a response to a question that many have been asking since last year: why is the federal government focusing its financial audits on charities that oppose oil pipeline projects?
When he responded to the Vancouver Observer, he almost appeared to lump environmental advocacy groups in the same category as charities funded by terrorism.
Other than Canadian political parties themselves, the Fraser Institute must be Canada’s most intensely political organization.
Notwithstanding its pious mission statement — “to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government interventions on the welfare of individuals” — essentially 100 per cent of the Fraser Institute’s activities are 100-per-cent political.
However, “a registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities,” the CRA states. “A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for office.”
Rather than strengthening the rights of citizens, the new law demeans citizenship. Like the changes to the refugee laws that Ottawa sold by branding refugees as bogus, these proposals represent new Canadians as objects of suspicion and mistrust. That is the only justification for changes that will make citizenship unattainable for many and will facilitate its revocation.
As Canadians, we make our citizenship feeble if we give government ministers the unfettered power to extinguish it. As the United States Supreme Court stated a half-century ago, citizenship is not a license that expires upon misbehaviour. It is not a mere privilege. It is nothing less than the right to have rights.
VETERANS FIGHT BACK
But as anyone familiar with Canadian military history knows, attacking Canadian troops when they hold the moral high ground is very dangerous. And by attacking these 6 veterans, the Government has made another gave error — if you disrespect one Canadian soldier, you disrespect them all. And Them All is firing back. Rallies and sit-ins are forming up, veterans are demanding Fantino’s seat (since they can’t have his head), and the veterans community is declaring they will campaign against the Conservatives in 2015.
CONSERVATIVE ETHICS – SERIOUSLY?
(An ironic little follow up on the canned Tweet story from last week)
For Foreign Minister John Baird, the timing of the revelations that Industry Canada tweets must follow a rigid and systematic set of protocols before being released to the public could not have been worse.
Just a few days after that story broke, the minister made it clear in a speech to California’s high tech firms that Canada was preparing to unleash its digital diplomats on the world in support of human rights and political protest. Baird’s apparent goal is to challenge oppressive governments who undermine freedom of speech by shutting down the flow of information across the Internet. (LOL!)
CBC News – Tories’ ethics report targets unions but fails to fix rules, opposition says
Report reflects little of testimony by ethics commissioner, experts
A new report from the House ethics committee ignores most of the suggestions about how to improve the rules for cabinet ministers and senior staffers, but recommends applying those rules to all union members working for the Canadian government.
The committee got hundreds of recommendations on how to improve or update the Conflict of Interest Act, the rules that set ethical guidelines for public office holders. But the final report, tabled Wednesday in the House of Commons, contains 16 recommendations, most of which have nothing to do with the expert witness testimony heard from January to June 2013.
(Personal vendetta? Deep-seated jealousy? Or just plain terror?)
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are planning to target Justin Trudeau at the upcoming Liberal convention with a carefully orchestrated campaign to disrupt Liberal communications, highlight disunity in the ranks and question his leadership abilities.
(Or: “Leveraging Laureen”)
OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives have plotted a road map to a 2015 election campaign that counts on a massive donor- and voter-targeting effort, a communications onslaught, and a bid to “leverage” the popularity of Laureen Harper, the prime minister’s wife, according to documents obtained by the Star.
The 70-page slide show presentation to the Conservative party’s national council last weekend by executive director Dimitri Soudas appears to acknowledge that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has work to do to reach out to Canadians and win their trust for another government.
(Paving the way to full privatization)
Based on what we have learned so far,” says Gayle Bossenberry, 1st National Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), “it seems the report was on track to confirm the recommendations of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and vindicate what postal workers have been saying: there’s a great potential here to keep the public postal service self-sufficient. But instead they killed the research and buried the report.”
OTTAWA—Despite its commitment to eliminating the national deficit, Stephen Harper’s 2014 budget denies Canadians the help they need to reduce inequality and create good jobs. The budget also prepares the way for the implementation of income splitting, a $3 billion tax giveaway that offers no help to the Canadians who need relief the most.
With almost 1.5 million unemployed workers and a record 13% youth unemployment rate, Canadians need a government that prioritizes productive investments and secure, well-paying jobs over attacks on unions and ads for a phantom jobs grant. A lack of much-needed infrastructure investment further compounds problems for Canada’s municipalities.
Hours before Jim Flaherty tabled his stay-the-course budget, 74 worried economists finally found their voices. “We, the undersigned, strongly urge the federal government to stop implementing fiscal austerity measures just to achieve its goal of budgetary balance,” they wrote in a collective statement to the finance minister.
It came too late to affect Tuesday’s budget or influence public expectations.
“You can’t do it alone,” said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong. “It won’t work unless the provinces, territories and the federal government are working together. In the past, we have been successful as a country when we work together.”
(Something to always keep in mind when the Cons make “spending announcements” – the money is allocated, but not always spent)
A large portion of the already small bag of newly-announced expenditures reflects the difference between “new” and “announced” more than anything else. Indeed, fully half of the spending measures have been previously announced and ear-marked, including the Jobs Grant program and portions of big-ticket infrastructure spending on projects such as the planned bridge over the Saint Laurence in Montreal. Some measures are simply a slap in the face: the budget proudly proclaims that 200 new food inspectors will be hired, while leaving out the fact that 1400 such positions were just cut – a net loss of 1200 jobs.
Here are the top 5 howlers in Jim Flaherty’s budget speech, delivered in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon after the 2014-15 budget was tabled.
DISASTERS IN DEFENCE
The government’s new defence procurement strategy is a disaster.
The most critical impediment to an efficient and effective defence procurement process is the lack of a single point of accountability. The overlap between the roles and responsibilities of the public-works and defence ministers guarantees that no single minister is held accountable for the billions of dollars spent annually.
THE CONTINUED DUMBING DOWN OF CANADA
OTTAWA – The federal government will cut $2.6 billion in spending and nearly 5,000 jobs from its science-focused departments between 2013 and 2016, says a report released Thursday by a union representing government scientists and professionals.
The report, which includes survey data showing a majority of scientists believe their departments are weakening efforts to protect Canadians and the environment, highlights the departure of key experts who did research on rail safety and public health, as well as the recent review of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS AGAIN? OH RIGHT…WE ARE
OTTAWA—The Conservative government spent $69 million on advertising campaigns in 2012, bring Ottawa’s five-year total to more than $473 million.
The campaigns ranged from $14.8 million spent on advertising measures contained within the budget, to $3.1 million explaining Conservative cuts to Old Age Security, and $8.2 million informing Canadians about the importance of natural resources to the country’s economic fortune.
OTTAWA – Small businesses and a union representing professional public servants are raising fresh questions about the value and security of a federal government deal that is now underway with Bell Canada – worth up to $400 million over seven years – to restructure email services.
“I think it’s more about supporting their ongoing ideology about supporting corporate business,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “And at one point, Canadians’ data is just there to be exploited.”
(Interesting tidbit for future reference?)
OTTAWA — An ethics disclosure filed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows that his wife Laureen liquidated her entire portfolio of stock market investments late last year.