Harper Watch, April 12 to April 23, 2014


COMMENTARY

Sister Sage’s Musings – Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has Been Receiving
(I debated including anything about Flaherty, but this was too comprehensive to leave out)
I shouldn’t have to open this post with I’m sorry for Flaherty’s family’s loss. That is a given.  In fact, I can empathize. I have lost people recently.  I really hope Flaherty’s family finds the strength to continue with their lives.  It’s one reason why I haven’t really spoken of it on Thursday on social media.  In fact, I was going to wait a week before writing a post like this. However, after all the hero worship Flaherty has been getting since he passed on last Thursday has been getting tedious, nauseating and beyond.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Harper sees role as protector of the rich and powerful
Harper’s grip on power is based on ignorance being strength. As poll after poll confirms, his strongest support is from people who know the least about public issues, the bumper-sticker crowd. What could be wrong with Bill C-23? It’s called the Fair Elections Act, right?
Conversely, the more people learn about Harper policy, the less they like it. Hence the need for all those commercials aimed at the ill-informed and disengaged — paid for by taxpayers. The prime minister now reports on himself in a weekly video. It wastes the time of up to four officials from the PCO and other staff members from the PMO. It is a raging success; 21 viewers for the French language version in Quebec. Of course, Harper cannot share with us how much it costs to produce. We are the piggy-bank, the government is the pig.

iPolitics – Michael Harris: Does the RCMP work for us, or the PMO?
(The response that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson makes here to criticisms is pretty much made moot by the fact that anything released by the RCMP has to be vetted by Harper’s cronies)
The other night on television, Stephen Harper’s former communications manager, Geoff Norquay, said that since the RCMP has assured Nigel Wright he will not be charged, nobody cares about the whole stinking mess any longer. Well, I do. As the saying goes, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. In order for that to happen in the case of Nigel Wright, we deserve a full explanation of how this decision was made — and who ultimately made it.

iPolitics – Linda McQuaig: The snob factor in the Harper universe
After years of relative obscurity in the splendour of the Upper Chamber, Senator Linda Frum’s plunge onto the national stage last week was odd, to say the least. Frum’s adamant insistence — at a Senate hearing and later in a series of well-publicized Twitter exchanges — that Elections Canada should not encourage people to vote sounded so out of sync with widely-held democratic principles that it appeared mystifying. Indeed, it only made sense when you realized she was inadvertently revealing how deeply she and other Harperites mistrust the public at large — and how much they fear entrusting the vote to those beyond the Harper base.

The Globe and Mail – Jeffrey Simpson: The Fair Elections Act is ever so telling
The so-called Fair Elections Act, however it eventually turns out, will have shown again the hard face of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. Everything about the bill was wrong, from the way it was conceived to the method of presentation to the scorn for expert evidence. From conception to eventual adoption, even if amended by the Senate (a move obviously orchestrated by the government), the bill will have demonstrated a government determined to wring political gain from every measure, a fierce partisanship for something that ought to have been non-partisan, a dismissal of experts who, by virtue of dissent, were deemed enemies of the party. It did not have to be this way, but to imagine another approach is to misunderstand the Harper government. It does not know how to do politics or public policy another way. It has its core vote – maybe 30 per cent of the electorate – to which it wishes to bolt another 10 per cent for re-election. And, frankly, it doesn’t care a damn for the other 60 per cent, from which it believes all these so-called “experts” and editorial writers and assorted other critics come.

iPolitics – Lawrence Martin: A way to get rid of the unelected power mongers
In every government you hear the same complaint. The place is being run by a secretive group of unelected operatives in the prime minister’s office.
Some of the top members of the inner sanctum, like the prime minister’s chief of staff, are more powerful than cabinet ministers. They are not accountable to the people. They order the governing party’s elected MPs around. They seem to have little respect for the democratic process.

The Star – Harper’s support among Conservatives starting to crumble: Hébert
MONTREAL—Stephen Harper was always a political loner but these days he mostly just looks isolated.
Jim Flaherty — the happy warrior who helped steer a dour government through two minority mandates and a global economic crisis — is gone.
So is the strategist who engineered Harper’s political victories. Senator Doug Finley succumbed to cancer a year ago.
Other former members of the prime minister’s inner circle are dead to him in other ways.

iPolitics – Michael Harris – Robocalls case gets curiouser and curiouser
There’s nothing like waiting for your trial to fray the nerves. That’s what Michael Sona has been doing for two years — with the added burden that allegations about his part in the Robocalls Affair keep leaking out like oil from a blown gasket. And between now and his trial date of June 2, there may be more — just as there was in Postmedia last week. “Funny to think of it this way, but by the time it’s over it would have consumed over 10 per cent of my life,” Sona told me. Without anything having been proved against him, this affair has also consumed Sona’s job, his immediate prospects and half his professional contacts — as people “linked out” of connections with the controversial young man after he became the prime candidate behind the mysterious ‘Pierre Poutine’.

FIRST NATIONS

WC Native News – An inquiry into McDonald’s, but no inquiry into the murdered aboriginal women?
(Certainly shows where this government’s priorities lie – also with cats)
A parliamentary report on murdered and missing aboriginal women that does not recommend a national public inquiry ignores the pleas of the families who have lost mothers, sisters and daughters, says the head of Canada’s largest native group.
Kenney told the House of Commons on Monday that he learned of the possible abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program at a franchise outlet in B.C. last Thursday. The minister said he immediately ordered an inquiry and had investigators at the site within 24 hours.

iPolitics (Andrew Mitrovica) – Heckling Mrs Harper
(To Laureen Harper:  If you let yourself be used as an instrument to bolsters Steve’s popularity, get used to the heckling. )
According to much of the media, Hailey King is simply “the heckler.” The 21 year-old college student has also been dismissed as a “protestor” or “activist.” She appears to be much more than that. When I spoke to her, she struck me as a thoughtful, bright and impassioned young woman who is determined to have her voice heard. King attracted a burst of attention and notoriety late last week when she briefly interrupted Laureen Harper while she was speaking at a fundraising gala in Toronto for one of her pet projects (pun intended), a film festival devoted to cats — homeless or otherwise.

ELECTIONS ACT

Embassy – Elections Act changes drop Canada from lofty status: Electoral scholars
The government’s Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23, will hurt Canada’s reputation as a leader in fair elections, say electoral scholars from Canada and abroad.   Dropping the failsafe voucher provision, whereby voters can vouch for citizens without up-to-date identification, would harm Canada’s reputation as one of the most inclusive and trustworthy systems in the world, said Tova Wang, a Brussels-based senior fellow at Demos, a New-York-based pro-democracy NGO. “It’s particularly depressing that it’s happening in Canada,” she said in a phone interview.

The Little Red Umbrella – Stephen Harper’s War On Free & Fair Elections
(An excellent summary of what is wrong with the “Fair” Elections Act and how it all came about)
“The jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control.” Stephen Harper wrote that sentence back in 2001. This was in the days before he was the leader of the Reform Party. He was fundraising for the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative lobby group. At the time, he was pissed off that Elections Canada was enforcing a law banning the publication of election results before all the polls closed. But his anger at Elections Canada extends far beyond that. One Conservative who worked with him at the time claims that Harper’s hatred for election officials is a “never-ending” “blood feud”.

The Globe and Mail – Harper Tories undermining democracy, to their own peril
This week, a Senate committee took the unusual step of beginning its study of the Fair Elections Act at the same time as a Commons committee is conducting its own hasty review. Normally, the Senate would wait for the Commons to finish its work, but the Harper government wants this legislation passed as quickly as possible, before any more Canadians realize how flawed it is. And so the government issued marching orders to the Senate, erstwhile chamber of sober second thought. The Conservative majority in the Upper Chamber, hearing its master’s voice, is marching as instructed. Canadians might be under the impression that a parliamentary committee reviewing legislation, and holding hearings, would use said hearings to listen, and even hear. Sometimes that’s how it goes. On a bill that remakes the electoral system, the heart of our democratic process, the government should be relying on experts, seeking all-party support, and generally taking a non-partisan approach to what is supposed to be a non-partisan matter. But this is not a normal government. The point of these parliamentary hearings for the government has been to hear nothing, to learn nothing – and to say just about anything.

The Globe and Mail – Senate panel sets up confrontation with Harper on Elections Act
In a rare exercise of power, a Senate committee is pushing back against Stephen Harper’s Conservative government by unanimously recommending changes to the Fair Elections Act, an overhaul of electoral law that is fiercely opposed by other parties. The Senate report, which will be made public this week, amounts to a warning shot from the embattled Senate. The move is not binding, but it raises the threat of the Senate changing the bill itself if the House of Commons ignores its recommendations before passing Bill C-23.The Senate committee, two-thirds of whose members are Conservatives appointed by Mr. Harper, heard from a broad range of experts last week, the vast majority of whom called for substantial changes to the deeply divisive bill. Now the senators are set to recommend, unanimously, specific amendments.

The Star – Senate gives government cover to pass anti-democratic bill: Tim Harper
The push by Conservatives senators to amend Stephen Harper’s elections act had all the elements of a marvelous yarn. The unelected senators had taken their revenge, biting back and riding in on their white steed to save democracy, showing their relevancy and putting the government on its heels. Unfortunately, it is nonsense. What Conservatives senators have really done is give the government cover to suddenly shift course, drop their bullying demeanour and pretend to be reasonable and conciliatory then go ahead and pass a deeply flawed bill with nothing more than cosmetic tweaks.

The Globe and Mail – A less bad Fair Elections Act is still not good enough
The Conservative government may finally be waking up to the enormity of its own recklessness. With the Fair Elections Act, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre wasn’t just taking aim at Canadian democracy. He wasn’t just going to war against evidence and experts. He was taking a gun, loading the magazine, cocking the hammer and pointing it at his own head and the government’s. Finger on the trigger, he’s now wondering if anyone might suggest ways to lessen the chance of injury. The Conservative majority on the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, having barely begun its study of the bill, is already recommending that he remove some of the bullets. Some, but not all. Here’s a better idea, for the country and the Conservative Party: Put the gun down.

Canada.com – Robocalls registry may not be in place for next federal election
OTTAWA – Reforms to the federal election law intended to crack down on illegal robocalls may not be put in place by the time Canadians next go to the polls.
The government’s contentious Fair Elections Act contains an obscure clause that places a six-month delay on the “robocall registry” of automated calling companies.
Depending on when the legislation receives royal assent, and the timing of the next election, the vote could be held with no more protection than exists now from the kind of misleading robocalls that marred the 2011 vote.
Most of the Fair Elections Act becomes law the moment the Governor General grants assent, after first winning approval from the House of Commons and Senate. But the coming-into-force clauses contain a specific phase-in period for sections dealing with automated calling companies.

THE REGIME AT WORK

The Globe and Mail – Tories secretly gave Canadian military OK to share info despite torture risk
The Conservative government has secretly ordered the Canadian military to share information with allies even when there’s a serious risk it could lead to torture.
The memo reveals Defence was slated to be the fifth and final federal agency to apply the Harper government’s instruction to exchange information with a foreign agency when doing so may give rise to a “substantial risk” of torture. The others are the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and Communications Security Establishment Canada, the electronic eavesdropping agency known as CSE. The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the November 2011 memo under the Access to Information Act.

Vancouver Sun – Auditor general raps integrity commissioner over handling of whistleblowers
OTTAWA – Auditor General Michael Ferguson has found Canada’s public service integrity commissioner, his deputy and an investigator guilty of gross mismanagement and wrongdoing in the handling of two whistleblowers’ complaints made against the integrity’s watchdog’s office. The auditor general’s report rapped the office for delays, mismanaging the files and committing a “wrongdoing” under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The act lays out the procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public service, including protection from reprisal for whistleblowers who disclose the wrongdoing.

The Star – Star obtains list of red-flagged drugs
Doctors and health experts alarmed that Health Canada won’t make public its reviews of drug investigations in 2013.
The Star obtained a list of last year’s federal drug reviews that likely won’t see the light of day despite Ottawa’s new commitment to transparency. It took repeated requests made over five months to access the index. No public record of this work has existed until now. The Star shared this list with half a dozen doctors at hospitals and respected drug safety and health policy researchers, all of whom were troubled that Health Canada has no plans to publish reviews associated with many high-profile medications.

Global News – Canada’s information commissioner says she’s handcuffed by legislation
OTTAWA – Canada’s Information Commissioner believes police should look into evidence of “systemic interference” with access to information requests by three Conservative political staffers, but says she has no power to call them herself. “The act limits my ability to share this information with appropriate investigative agencies,” Suzanne Legault said Sunday in an interview with Tom Clark on The West Block.

Winnipeg Free Press – Grain,trains and autocratsFarmers pay price for wheat board dismantling
A banner 2013 crop year and some rail delays due to cold weather do not account for all our grain-transportation woes. Co-ordination of rail to ships is out of synch. A study by Quorum found rail shipments to the West Coast are down two per cent from last year, but there are excess ships waiting in port. In the east, grain shipments were down 20 per cent at Thunder Bay as of March. This despite the record crop farmers harvested in 2013. There is a direct correlation between the loss of the farmer-elected Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and the current rail-transportation boondoggle, which will cost Prairie farmers over $5 billion in sales.

National Post – PMO has paid more than $4.1M in severance to departing employees since Harper took office
OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office coughed up $4.1-million in severance and separation pay over the first seven years of Stephen Harper’s tenure for 196 departing PMO employees, according to government documents.
The high turnover rate in the PMO between 2006 and 2013 saw between roughly one-third and one-fifth of staff leave each year, often with both severance and discretionary separation payments.

HARPER CELEBRATES EARTH DAY

Seattle PI – Canada pushes whales aside to green light oil pipeline
A quiet announcement in the Canadian Gazette has removed a large, water-breaching marine obstacle from the path of a pipeline and oil super port that Canada’s government wants to build on the north coast of British Columbia.
In dry bureaucratic language, the humpback whales would no longer be “subjected to the general prohibitions set out in SARA nor would critical habitat be required to be legally protected under SARA.” Under Species At Risk, no part of critical habitat may be destroyed.The government has stripped the North Pacific humpback whale of its “threatened” status under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA).

Vancouver Sun – Fisheries department response to salmon decline report remains secret
The 1,146 pages of documents show that Fisheries went to work quickly after the Cohen report was tabled on Oct. 31, 2012, launching a review “in preparation for a potential government response.”
Each recommendation had a detailed response as well as an estimate of the cost, though the department acknowledged that spending proposals had to reflect both “fiscal realities” and the government’s new and more industry-friendly approach to habitat protection.
Yet, by mid-January of 2013, senior fisheries officials were noting in emails that “to date DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) has not been asked formally to help prepare” a Cohen response.

TFWs AND REFUGEES

CBC News – Replace Temporary Foreign Worker Program with immigration, say experts
How to solve a problem like the federal government’s scandal-plagued Temporary Foreign Worker Program?
Economists and immigration experts say there are solutions at hand as the Conservatives grapple with yet another controversy involving temporary foreign workers.

iPolitics – Mental health funding chopped for refugees
VANCOUVER – Months after his mother was murdered by gang gunfire, Mauricio Osorto recognized he would be next if he didn’t escape Honduras.
He abandoned his life as a university teacher and lawyer who shared his mother’s law practice to go to Canada where he had to start again.
A Vancouver refugee-assistance program helped him get through the grief and trauma of what he left behind and allowed him to build a new life in Canada.
But many others after Osorto, 33, won’t have the same opportunities in British Columbia after the federal government cut almost of all of its funding for agencies that had been offering mental health services to thousands of traumatized refugees.
Dylan Mazur, with the Vancouver Association of Survivors of Torture, or VAST, calls the situation “a crisis in refugee mental health care.”
Now two of four groups offering mental health counselling to refugees have shut down their programs in the province.

The Star – Congolese refugees ‘interviewed’ in Canada by officials they fled from
The federal government allegedly paid for a cross-Canada trip by officials from Congo — a country known for its human rights abuses — to “interview” Congolese nationals facing deportation to their homeland.
The allegations, made by some of the refugee claimants who were interviewed, have prompted outrage in the Congolese Canadian community, whose members expressed shock that the government would work with a regime it has placed under a travel warning. Officially, Canada has a moratorium on deportations to the Democratic Republic of Congo, out of concerns for the safety of people sent back.
“This is one of the worst dictatorships in the world, and Canada has spent money to pay for the trip of those from the regime that is killing my family, my friends and my people,” alleged Freddy Kabongo, president of the Congolese Community of the GTA.
“If we are supporting and funding a dictatorship, there is no difference between the Congo and Canada.”

CBC News – Waitresses in Saskatchewan lose jobs to foreign workers
Sandy Nelson can’t fight back the tears as she talks about losing her long-term serving job to temporary foreign workers.
“How can that be right, that they’re not Canadians? I’m a Canadian,” said Nelson, 58, who worked at Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza [previously called El Rancho] in Weyburn, Sask., for 28 years.
“How can it be that I’m the one out looking for a job and they’re the ones that are still employed?”

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT RON

National Post – Conservative who defeated Rob Anders says Jason Kenney had ‘no business’ in controversial nomination race
(It’s kind of too bad Anders is out – he was one of Harper’s greatest liabilities. Liepert will find out soon enough what happens to those who oppose)
CALGARY – The man who defeated controversial Calgary MP Rob Anders for the nomination in Signal Hill took aim at one of the most powerful members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet late Saturday night. Moments after the results showed he’d won by a comfortable margin former Alberta cabinet minister Ron Liepert took exception to the fact that Anders had received the endorsement of cabinet heavyweight Jason Kenney. “Quite frankly I think Minister Kenney should mind his own business. He should go into his own riding and try and get re-elected in his own riding and quit monkeying around at other nominations…anywhere in this province,” said Liepert, who made it abundantly clear that he was angry at the interference.

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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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One Response to Harper Watch, April 12 to April 23, 2014

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