Harper Watch, May 22 to June 4, 2014


THE TRIAL OF MICHAEL SONA

National Post – Defence grills witness about why Tories gave him $15,000 raise after pinning robocalls on Michael Sona
GUELPH – Michael Sona’s defence lawyer chipped away at the credibility of the Crown’s first witness in the robocalls case on Monday, pressing him on the vagueness of his memory and asking pointed questions about the promotion and raise he received after giving evidence against his former friend.
Chris Crawford, a Conservative ministerial staffer who worked alongside Sona on the Conservative campaign in Guelph, told the court that he had overheard his former friend speak of misdirecting voters to the wrong polling locations and sending out calls to annoy Liberal voters.
Crawford is the first of 10 Crown witnesses, all current or former Conservative political staffers.

CBC News – Star robocalls witness points to Michael Sona, Ken Morgan
Andrew Prescott, the star witness at the trial of Michael Sona, suggested Conservative campaign manager Ken Morgan was involved in setting up the misleading robocalls that confused Guelph, Ont., voters in the last federal election.
Prescott, the deputy campaign manager for the Conservative candidate in Guelph in 2011, said the campaign office was getting reports from supporters on May 2 that year that they had received phone calls telling them their polling station had moved, as well as a call that said the polls would close early.

OPINION, COMMENTARY

ipolitics – Michael Harris: Hey Stevie, start with ‘I’m sorry’ and go from there
Stephen Harper owes Canadians an explanation and now would be a good time to offer it.
How did a lawyer twice convicted of fraud, who went to jail for 18 months for stealing from his own clients, who was charged with influence peddling in 2012, and is now facing three new counts of illegal lobbying and another of influence peddling – how did such a talented guy get to sit at the right hand of power in the Prime Minister’s Office?

Maclean’s – The maternal health summit: Another bad day for the PMO
… we got suckered into believing we would be able to cover an event whose participants very much want their efforts to be covered, and instead we were wrong again, as we so often are when we expect Stephen Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office to act like professionals.

The Star – Stephen Harper presiding over Tories’ self-destructive madness: Hébert
When historians look back on Stephen Harper’s (first?) decade in power, what will they make of the trail of institutional wreckage that his government is leaving in its wake?
Will they conclude that a mastermind determined to change the course of the ship of state at all costs was in charge, or just a bunch of drunken sailors?
The Conservatives came to power in 2006 as institutional reformers. But three mandates later, one would look in vain for a method to the self-destructive madness that they are presiding over.

Press Progress – Stephen Harper will blow $43 billion this year on tax giveaways
The Conservative anti-tax brigade is spending $43 billion on tax giveaways this year, a new report estimates.
A Parliamentary Budget Office report released Tuesday examined changes to Canada’s tax system between 2005 and 2013 for personal incomes taxes and the GST/HST. It found that the accumulation of cuts since 2005 will reduce federal personal income tax revenues this year by an estimated $17.1 billion and the federal share of the GST/HST revenue by $13.3 billion.

rabble.ca – CLLN: Harper government attempts to quietly defund national literacy
Without an announcement or any consultation, it appears that the federal government has decided to quietly collapse Canada’s national literacy and essential skills network. This is happening at the same time as community literacy programs across Canada experience a seismic shift and uncertainty of sustained operations, while millions of dollars in federal funding is being effectively diverted from federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements and redirected to the unproven Canada Job Grant program.

IN THE COURTS

Canada.com – Federal government legal spending hit record $500 million last year
(And they lose almost every case)
Federal government departments and agencies spent a record half billion dollars on legal services last year, an increase of more than $138 million in the past three years alone, according to government spending records.
Total spending — not including legal services provided by a department or agency’s own lawyers — hit $500.8 million in 2011-12, according to the 2012 Public Accounts. That’s 6.8 per cent more than the previous year and 38 per cent higher than in 2008-09.

Globe and Mail – The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO
Early last summer, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin sat down with five federal politicians at the stately court building on Wellington Street, just down the road from Parliament.
The Supreme Court selection panel – three Conservative MPs, a New Democrat MP and a Liberal MP – had come bearing a list of six candidates to replace Justice Morris Fish of Quebec, who was nearing 75 and about to retire.
That list, crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department, was so troubling to Chief Justice McLachlin that she phoned Justice Minister Peter MacKay and took initial steps toward contacting the Prime Minister. These attempts to raise potential eligibility issues would later trigger an unprecedented public dispute between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, a coda to the ultimately failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon.

SAFETY, SECURITY

Ottawa Citizen – Government orders federal departments to keep tabs on all demonstrations across country
The federal government is expanding its surveillance of public activities to include all known demonstrations across the country, a move that collects information even on the most mundane of protests by Canadians.
Wesley Wark, an intelligence specialist at the University of Ottawa, said such an order is illegal. “The very nature of the blanket request and its unlimited scope I think puts it way over the line in terms of lawful activity,” said Wark. “I think it’s a clear breach of our Charter rights.”

CBC News – Cyberbullying bill surveillance powers alarm Ontario privacy watchdog
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s privacy watchdog, is sounding the alarm about “overreaching surveillance powers” contained in Bill C-13, the federal government’s legislation to combat cybercrime.
In a sharply worded letter sent to Conservative MP Mike Wallace, the chair of the Commons justice committee currently studying Bill C-13, Cavoukian warns the government against beefing up police powers under the guise of protecting children from cyberbullying and other online crimes.
“The time for dressing up overreaching surveillance powers in the sheep-like clothing of sanctimony about the serious harms caused by child pornography and cyberbullying is long past,” Cavoukian said in a letter dated May 16.

Globe and Mail – Privacy watchdogs troubled by controversial bill extending police powers
The new bills come amid a renewed debate over privacy in Canada, ranging from questions about oversight at the national spy agency, Ottawa’s own efforts to monitor Canadians’ social-media accounts and recent revelations that telecommunication companies are regularly being asked by government agencies to hand over private data.
Nonetheless, the new bills further expand snooping powers. In particular, C-13 was tabled as a cyberbullying law but also includes clauses beefing up the power of various government officials to monitor cellphones and other electronic data and track people, though in most cases a warrant is required. However, the bill also allows law-enforcement officials to seek private information from, for instance, telephone companies – who critics say could, under the bill, voluntarily hand over certain subscriber information to police, border guards or other officials with full legal impunity.

The Star – Ministry confirms it doesn’t audit overseas garment factories
In the year since the Rana Plaza disaster, the clothing sector has come under scrutiny for its lack of oversight and transparency. Some Canadian companies and levels of government have taken steps to improve their accountability.
Loblaw, the maker of Joe Fresh clothing, has joined the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement that will see more than 100 retailers pay for factory safety upgrades.
But the federal government remains an exception, activists said.
“Having no audits is a formula for disaster,” said Scott Nova, an official with the Workers Rights Consortium, a group that monitors garment factories. “You have a law with no enforcement that companies have every incentive to ignore because by ignoring standards they make more money.”

FIRST NATIONS

WC Native News – First Nations chiefs have voted and rejected Bill C-33
First Nations chiefs have voted to reject Bill C-33, which proposes to create the First Nations control of First Nations education act, and demand the government withdraw it immediately.
Their resolution calls on Canada, “based on the honour of the Crown to negotiate an agreement on new fiscal transfer payments to First Nations.”
The chiefs demand that Canada immediately provide the $1.9 billion that was offered in conjunction with Bill C-33, with the core funding growing at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent.

Global News – Harper’s actions unconscionable and immoral: Former PM
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin says the government’s decision to put the First Nations education bill on hold is “morally wrong” and “unconscionable.”
In an interview airing Sunday on The West Block with Tom Clark, Martin said the decision to shelve Bill C-33 and the money that goes with it, shows the government is playing a “very tough game…really an unfair game with the First Nations.”

ENVIRONMENT, OIL

ipolitics – Ottawa demands NAFTA body drop investigation into oilsands tailings
CALGARY – Ottawa wants the Commission for Environmental Co-operation to drop its investigation into whether laws are being properly enforced when it comes to oilsands pollution.
The CEC asked the federal government in December to respond to allegations that it has failed to enforce provisions in the Fisheries Act by allowing harmful substances to leak from tailings ponds into water sources downstream of mines in northeastern Alberta.

rabble.ca – New revelations show Harper’s warm embrace of Big Oil lobby
Now, Wright figures prominently in another PMO saga that highlights something arguably much more serious — the political influence of a multi-billion-dollar lobby whose business development plans imperil nothing less than the fate of the earth.
Yet this latest Nigel Wright saga has been largely ignored by the media — perhaps because it’s not considered news that a lobbyist for Big Oil had stunningly easy access to the PM’s top adviser.
After all, did anybody think that such a lobbyist would not have that sort of access in Stephen Harper’s PMO?
Under Harper, the Prime Minister’s Office has dedicated itself to transforming Canada into an unabashed petro-state, making the country one of a handful of nations leading the world rapidly down a path to climate-change mayhem.

ECONOMY, EMPLOYMENT

CBC News – 39% of unemployed have given up job search, poll suggests
The results of this survey should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers that some unemployed Canadians are falling behind,” Express CEO Bob Funk said. “If left unchecked, they could fall into a trap of prolonged unemployment and risk being left out of the workforce entirely.”
With numbers like that, it’s not hard to detect the bleakness emanating from employment centres across the country.
“I’m not even going to look for a job anymore, because I’ve been searching for six months and nothing is happening,” says Shirlon Marshall, an unemployed short order cook looking for a job at a Toronto-area job centre.

Globe and Mail – Ottawa approved thousands of foreign worker requests at minimum wage, data reveal
The federal government approved thousands of requests to bring in temporary foreign workers at minimum wage in recent years, a practice that undermines claims from government and employers that there are serious labour shortages and that all efforts have been taken to hire Canadians.
The revelations in newly released data come as the Conservative government is weighing major policy reforms – including a new “wage floor” – in response to criticism that employers are relying on the temporary foreign worker program as a way to avoid raising wages.

STILL CHEATING

The Hill Times – Cabinet ministers on P&P get $1.3-million more to spend on ministerial staff annually: report
“Unlike permanent public servants, political staffers are ‘exempt’ from expectations of non-partisanship in their work. In fact, they are selected and appointed, at least in part, based on partisan affiliation and serve at the pleasure of the minister or Prime Minister,” writes Ms. Robson in her paper.

INTERNATIONAL SHAME

Huffington Post – Harper Government Ignores Advice About Ukraine Election Observer Mission
OTTAWA – For the third time in four years, the Harper government has sent a large, Canada-only mission to observe an election in Ukraine, despite a report that concluded it would be cheaper, more credible and more effective to join a multilateral international mission.
Some 338 observers are part of Canada’s current independent mission in Ukraine; they are fanned out across the troubled country to assess the integrity of Sunday’s presidential election process.

CBC News – Maternal health summit excludes opposition parties, NDP says
“I asked specifically to be invited. I’m the Official Opposition critic on international development,” said Hélène Laverdière on CBC Radio’s The House.
“I mean, this is a governmental event. I would presume many members of the Conservative caucus will find themselves there. So, are they turning it into a kind of partisan event where only Conservative MPs are entitled to attend?”
Laverdière said she finds it “worrying, to say the least.”

FANTINO – CANADA’S SHAME

National Post – ‘We’re nothing to you’: Julian Fantino heads for back door, ignores veteran’s spouse demanding answers over PTSD treatment
OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year — including television spots throughout the NHL playoffs — but ignoring the plight of families who care for injured soldiers, says the spouse of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
An angry Jenifer Migneault chased after Julian Fantino and demanded to speak to the veterans affairs minister following his appearance Thursday at a House of Commons committee.
The spectacle played out before a crush of reporters, television cameras and microphones in a scene reminiscent of Fantino’s testy encounter last winter with veterans angry about the closure of federal offices.

ipolitics – ‘Mr. Fantino … can I talk to you, please?’
Why does Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino hate veterans?
Maybe “hate” is too strong a word. Let’s just say that he has a peculiar way of showing his affection and admiration for veterans. In fact, Fantino has been disdainful and curt with the very Canadians whose interests he is supposed to serve and protect.

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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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