National Post – Andrew Coyne: Fair Elections Act proof the Conservatives are no normal government
In normal times, under a normal government, the Fair Elections Act would have been withdrawn by now, or at least be in serious trouble. The past few weeks have seen the bill denounced as a threat to democracy by the chief electoral officer, the former chief electoral officer, several provincial elections officials, academic experts domestic and foreign, and newspaper editorials across the country……
But as this is not a normal government, Mr. Poilievre has instead doubled down. To the detailed objections of its critics, he offers nothing but the same, and I mean exactly the same, talking points, recited without evident effort to persuade but merely to impress upon his listeners how genuinely uninterested in their opinion he is. To Mr. Neufeld’s complaints at having his report misrepresented, he responds that Mr. Neufeld does not understand his own report. The inaccurate and out-of-context passages he had cited from it were, he told Parliament, quoted “accurately and in context.” If Mr. Neufeld did not wish to use these words, he blithely told the CBC’s Evan Solomon, he should not have written them.
“Today I am writing to direct your full attention to the Confidential Memo I received today from Dimitri Soudas, the dynamic new Executive Director of the Conservative Party hand-picked by Prime Minister Harper,” Sen. Irving Gerstein wrote in a letter to Conservative donors dated 16 days ago.
And barely two weeks later it has all turned to ashes, because three days after Hand-Picked Dimitri sent his Confidential Memo to Irv describing the urgent, pressing, critical, essential crisis menacing Stephen Harper’s very future and —as if this even needed saying! — the Commonwealth’s along with it, Hand-Picked Dimitri reportedly drove his life partner Eve Adams to a riding-association meeting in Oakville—North Burlington, where Adams is not the incumbent MP, and waited outside in the hall while she made enough of a scene to get herself kicked out. Then he fired the guy who wrote to the party complaining about her behaviour. What a coincidence.
(Canada used to be famous for being fair-minded and democratic…)
Australians who value democracy should turn their eyes to Canada to catch a glimpse of what might be heading our way.
Two weeks ago, international academics added their names to a call by 160 Canadian experts to stop a piece of legislation being rushed through parliament that aims to radically change electoral processes in Canada.
Introduced by the Conservative Party government in Canada, and with a name that would do George Orwell proud, the ‘’Fair Elections Act’’ seeks to insert partisanship and inequality into Canadian electoral procedures in a manner reminiscent of 19th century processes. The proposed act will reduce voting rights, foster partisan bias in election administration and weaken campaign finance laws.
START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.
Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.
Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes. Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition. Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.
CANADA’S PUBLIC HEALTH CARE IN JEOPARDY
Monday was a sad day for health care in Canada, says Roy Romanow, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan and one-time chair of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care.
The day marked the end of the Health Council of Canada and the 10-year health accord that led to its creation.
“It’s a blow to nation-building because it’s a blow to one of our revered, if not most revered, social programs, which is medicare,” Romanow said in a phone interview from the University of Saskatchewan where he teaches classes in federalism.
The Ottawa Hospital chief of staff, who has helped pioneer care for the homeless in Ottawa, said inequality as seen in the poor health of society’s most vulnerable is growing.
“We have not delivered on the promise of a universal health care system that reinforces equity as an important Canadian principle and, in fact, it seems that we are farther away from this than we have ever been,” he said.
“We are at risk of losing something that is very important to all of us, and while we have a lot to lose, we also have a lot to gain and in the end no Canadian can be left behind.”
THE OMNI BUS ROLLS OUT AGAIN
CBC News – Conservative budget bill loaded with unrelated measures, critics say
The 359-page bill changes nearly 40 pieces of legislation, from rail safety to the appointment of judges
NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen could not contain his exasperation, noting there are actually items in the bill his party supports — such as a reversal on imposing GST on hospital parking and some of the targeted tax credits.
It’s all that other unrelated stuff that drives opposition MPs wild.
“Our past experience has taught us that the devil lies in the details,” he said.
Harper himself, as a young opposition MP, once eloquently critiqued Liberal omnibus legislation because of the dilemma it posed for parliamentarians trying to do their job responsibly.
As the young Harper implored in 1995, “In the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?”
“We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?”
The Liberal omnibus bill that drew Harper’s ire in 1995 was 21 pages in length and altered 11 existing pieces of legislation.
WRONG AGAIN STEVE
The government has made much of a skills mismatch to justify measures such as the foreign temporary workers program, stricter employment insurance eligibility rules and the Canada Jobs Grant program.
But the office says there’s no evidence to suggest the current situation is any different from that prior to the 2008-09 recession, and that some level of skills mismatch in an economy is normal.
A healthy labour market is perhaps the single most important indicator of a government’s economic success. It’s also one of the most susceptible to rhetorical shenanigans — usually through the presentation of raw numbers, the bigger the better, often devoid of context.
Take Canada, where economic headwinds have made the current government’s record a matter of some dispute.
Last October, then-Finance minister Jim Flaherty boasted of “more than 1 million jobs created since the depth of the global recession.” That one phrase neatly encapsulates the dangers of letting political parties choose which indicators to use in a debate about the economy.
To start, the statement uses a period that will produce the biggest number of jobs, does not say what that period was, ignores how many were lost in the prior period, and fails to distinguish between full-time, part-time and contract employment. Then there is the attempt to dazzle with big numbers: Is a million a lot? How many jobs does the country usually generate over a similar period?
“We’re running fair and open nominations,” said Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann.
But in an email to Conservative headquarters, longtime party organizer Wally Butts expressed frustration with the situation in Oakville North – Burlington.
“When this situation originally arose, it was made clear to me that Dimitri would not be involved, and Eve was to be treated just like any other candidate seeking nomination as a candidate,” Butts wrote on Mar. 20.
“I am in a totally untenable situation in this matter as Dimitri is my ultimate boss. Can you please take action in this matter to straighten out this worsening mess?”
Butts, who was close to late national campaign director Doug Finley and his wife, cabinet minister Diane Finley, was let go shortly thereafter.
(where does he find these guys??)
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally demanded the resignation of Dimitri Soudas as executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada on Sunday after he was informed that Soudas had used party resources to boost his fiancée’s bid to win a contested nomination race, the Star has learned.
In addition to personally getting involved in the race for the new riding of Oakville North—Burlington, Soudas was found to have asked his executive assistant, Crystal Kapteyn, to make calls into the riding to help solicit potential supporters for his fiancée, MP Eve Adams — all in violation of a condition in Soudas’s written employment contract as one of the party’s top strategists, sources say.
Jim Flaherty and Ronald Reagan agree too: economic growth helps balance budgets
When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made comments about the budget being able to balance itself if economic growth were higher, I paid little attention, as Canada’s budget deficit is relatively small and I have heard many others make this claim.
As such, I was surprised to see these comments form the basis of a recent Conservative Party TV commercial. In my view, it is an unusual point of criticism, as the idea that a government’s budgetary balance depends on economic growth is widely known by economists, and politicians such as Jim Flaherty, Ronald Reagan and even Steven Harper routinely point out how economic growth is crucial to balancing a government’s budget…..
In the current Canadian context, Justin Trudeau’s statement was reasonable to the point of being obvious. I am puzzled why his comments have received so much attention.”
UNFAIR ELECTIONS ACT
(There were too many articles on this topic to include them all. Everyone is paying attention except the Harper Government.)
OTTAWA—The man in charge of investigating offences under Canada’s elections laws is urging the Conservatives to abandon key parts of their electoral reform bill and strengthen others.
Testifying before a House of Commons committee Tuesday, elections commissioner Yves Côté said the push to remove his office from Elections Canada is not “a step in the right direction.”
“In placing the commissioner within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Bill C-23 would bring under the same roof two functions that are normally, and for good reasons, kept separate,” Côté told the committee.
“It also raises concerns with respect to at least the perceived independence of the commissioner from the government of the day.”
Just a couple of hours before question period on Thursday, the procedure and house affairs committee had the chance to question a witness who’s become famous in these parts – a fellow who penned a report that minister for democratic reform Pierre Poilievre continues to cite as reason for getting rid of the vouching system for voting in the government’s Fair Elections Act.
It was only to be expected that Harry Neufeld would be a star in QP after what he said.
Neufeld, a former B.C. chief electoral officer, isn’t happy with what he says is a selective reading of his compliance review report on the 2011 election, published in March of last year.
The democratic reform minister is holding fast, however, and not quite heeding Neufeld’s concerns.
“This should not happen in Canada, which has one of the strongest reputations in the world for staging fair and free elections under the supervision of Elections Canada, the oldest independent and impartial national election body among established democracies,” Thomas says, according to speaking notes shared with The Huffington Post Canada.
The government’s election law is under review by a committee with a majority of Conservative MPs. The bill has been attacked by every opposition party, and all of the expert testimony so far has been critical of the Tories’ proposal. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, however, says his bill is “excellent.
The government came under its most severe criticism yet Thursday over controversial plans to amend federal election law, with a former chief electoral officer for British Columbia accusing the Conservatives of attempting to ‘tilt the playing field’ in their favour.
THE CONS ARE EVEN ON EACH OTHERS’ ENEMIES LISTS!
Ron Liepert, who is seeking a federal Conservative nomination in Calgary, alleges his competitor is making impersonating phone calls.
The former provincial Progressive Conservative MLA says Rob Anders’ campaign is calling constituents and saying the calls are from Liepert’s campaign.
Liepert claims he has heard complaints from constituents, some of whom called back the number and were connected with Anders’ campaign office.
“They received calls Friday night, both identifying themselves as the Conservative Party of Canada and the Ron Liepert campaign, asking how they were going to vote on the nomination.”
VETERANS AND WIDOWS – ON HARPER”S ENEMIES LIST?
(he’s not their friend that’s for sure)
Of the 40 short years Jacques lived, 23 years of those precious years were in service to Canada. Don’t you think the MND can offer me a few short moments of one hour of one day so I can understand and come to terms with what happened almost nine years ago?
BUT THERE’S TIME AND MONEY FOR THIS…
OTTAWA – The defence department spent more than $32,000 on kosher food to feed the government’s delegation when it flew to Israel in January, documents show.
Some 110 people accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper on two flights on the government plane from Ottawa to Germany, and from Germany to Tel Aviv.
That number includes journalists, stakeholders such as rabbis and Jewish associations, and 31 Parliamentarians, such as Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Conservative MP Mark Adler.
The cost of the meals totalled $32,333 – almost $150 per meal, per person, according to documents obtained under Access to Information
BACK IN COURT
The federal government will contest an injunction that allows people to continue to grow medical marijuana while a full legal challenge plays out in the courts.
It is the latest salvo in a series of legal actions over how the government administers its medical pot program.
Earlier this month, Federal Court Judge Michael Manson ruled that patients currently licensed to grow their own marijuana would be permitted to produce the drug even after new regulations banning the practice take effect Tuesday.
The judge granted an application from medical marijuana patients seeking a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo until their constitutional challenge of the new system could be heard.
The government said Monday it will ask the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the injunction.