Harper Watch, July 1 to July 18, 2014


COMMENTARY

The Star – Mainstay of Canada’s literacy movement topples: Goar
A sad farewell note is all that remains of Copian.
It closed its doors quietly after 25 years at the nucleus of Canada’s community literacy network, leaving behind this online message: “We’re sorry! As a result of the withdrawal of funding from the Government of Canada we are no longer able to provide you with the information you are seeking.”
The non-profit organization, previously known as the National Adult Literacy Database, provided hundreds of grassroots groups, local libraries and new readers with access to the best the material in the field and an online training centre.

Globe and Mail – Fix the link where science and policy meet
The connection between science and public policy within the federal government is broken, and the consequences for Canada are becoming disastrous. We propose four ways to fix this problem.
But first, how is the connection broken, and why should Canadians care?
The federal government has severely degraded its internal scientific capacity, including its ability to perform and publicize its own scientific research, track outside scientific research, and monitor and assess policy issues with complex scientific content.

Huffington Post – How Tories Bully Charities and Abuse Power
Canadian charities are experiencing an “advocacy chill” and changing the way they go about their work as a result of what they say is “bullying” by the Harper Conservative government. My just completed Master’s thesis research finds that the denunciatory rhetoric of government ministers against charities, followed by stepped up audits is having its toll not only on charity operations, but also on the strength of Canada’s public discussions and thus on the vigor of democracy itself.

Montreal Gazette – Coyne: Conservatives’ incoherence really shows with Charter of Rights discontent
“I’m all for rights and freedoms,” he said, “but the Charter complicates things.” The problem, as far as rights and freedoms are concerned, is that we have “complicated” them by writing them into law.
This is a common refrain among conservatives. We’d always gotten along fine without a written constitution, you will sometimes hear them say, in the apparent belief that the British North America Act, not to mention Magna Carta, the Petition of Right and the Bill of Rights 1689, were elaborate works of mime. The idea of codifying rights in law they tend to regard as a vaguely Gallic plot, perhaps forgetting Canada’s original Bill of Rights, the handiwork of a certain John George Diefenbaker.

Globe and Mail – Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen
Of course Canadians found guilty of crimes in credible courts of law should be punished according to the law, and they are. But Bill C-24 gives the government the power to revoke citizenship as some kind of additional penalty. It is redundant in cases where a citizen is in fact guilty of a crime. It is downright dangerous for those who are not. Under the new law, for example, Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy could be stripped of his Canadian citizenship because he was convicted of terrorism by an Egyptian court. Ottawa has said it would not apply the law in Mr. Fahmy’s case, but the mere fact that it has had to answer the question should give us all pause.

GAZA

CTV News – Canada calls out UN for criticizing Israel’s response to Gaza rockets
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the UN High Commissioner’s criticism of Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza are uncalled for.
Navi Pillay said this week that there should be an immediate ceasefire, citing reports of many civilian casualties.
A council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.

DUFFY

The Star – RCMP lay 31 criminal charges against Senator Mike Duffy
Mike Duffy’s fall from grace took another stunning tumble Thursday as Mounties charged the suspended senator with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with the alleged misuse of taxpayers’ funds.
The charges set the stage for a dramatic trial involving a high-profile witness list that could include Nigel Wright, the former top aide to Stephen Harper, Conservative senators and perhaps even the prime minister.

The Star – Stephen Harper in the witness box now a possibility: Tim Harper
Could we one day see Stephen Harper sitting under oath in the witness box being cross-examined by counsel for disgraced suspended Sen. Mike Duffy?
Thursday, that question moved beyond the theoretical to the distinctly possible.
There would be a lot of twists and turns in this saga before we get there, but this we do know — a Conservative government that had been looking at the end of a tunnel on the Senate-PMO scandal can now see only another tunnel.

Huffington Post – Harper Must Answer For Duffy’s Crimes
It’s a terribly sad day for Parliament when a member of the Senate gets hauled before the criminal courts to face 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. The formal trial of Mike Duffy is about to begin.
But his personal fate is no longer “the main event.”
Duffy fell from grace in the eyes of Canadians a long time ago. His unravelling circumstances have become almost farcical. The most important aspects of this painful saga are now his intimate interconnections with the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party and the Harper government.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Now Mike Duffy has been charged, the truth about the government’s role can emerge
While Mr. Duffy is the one facing charges, he was only ever part of the story. Beyond the immediate matter of his guilt or innocence, his trial will be of interest for the chance it affords to get some answers, at last, to those larger questions I mentioned. Mr. Wright will almost certainly be called as a witness. Given Mr. Duffy’s contention that he is being made a scapegoat by those higher up, others in the government may be as well — perhaps even the prime minister.

ENVIRONMENT

Canada.com – Harper government scraps 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects
The Harper government’s budget legislation has forced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to cancel nearly 3,000 screenings into potential environmental damage caused by proposed development projects across Canada, including hundreds involving a pipeline or fossil fuel energy, according to published records.
Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada.

LAW AND ORDER

Globe and Mail – The Supreme Court is Harper’s real Opposition
Worried on this Canada Day that an overbearing government is trying to change the country too much? Bothered that civil liberties are being sacrificed, that the government is trying to impose a moral code, that big monied interests are being catered to at the expense of the disadvantaged?
If so, you might find comfort in the work of our Supreme Court. Its rulings give it the look of standard-bearer for the proverbial little guy, the underdog’s ally. Its progressive orientation runs up against the Conservatives’ intent. Not by design, but in effect, it has become the Official Opposition in Ottawa, outdoing the New Democrats and Liberals.

CBC News – Federal government to appeal ruling reversing ‘cruel’ cuts to refugee health
The federal government will appeal a court decision overturning its cuts to refugee health-care funding, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said today.
Earlier Friday, the Federal Court released a decision giving the government four months to change federal cuts to refugee health care. The court threatened to strike down the changes.
Alexander told reporters at a news conference the government “vigorously defends the interests of Canadian taxpayers” and said he wants to emphasize “genuine refugees.” The appeal goes to the Federal Court of Appeal, but could end up in the Supreme Court if one side challenges the Federal Court of Appeal’s eventual decision.

CBC News – Refugee board approves claimants labelled ‘bogus’ by Ottawa
The federal government says refugees from a list of “safe” countries are “bogus” and don’t deserve health care, yet hundreds of these claimants have been approved as legitimate refugees, including dozens from the United States.
Figures provided by the Immigration and Refugee Board to CBC News show 47 claimants from the U.S. have been approved since 2007, even though the U.S. is on a list of “Designated Countries of Origin” that are deemed by Canada to respect human rights and offer state protection — and therefore don’t produce what Canada would recognize as refugees.
A small number of claimants from other “safe” countries, such as Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden have also been approved — joining hundreds more from Mexico, Hungary and countries that have recently been added the DCO list.

ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT

Broadbent Institute – Fact check: putting the Conservatives’ “million net new jobs” into context
The Conservative Party recently launched the “We’re better off with Harper” campaign with the claim that “with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada’s economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada’s Conservatives.”
The number in that claim is carefully chosen, and taken in isolation is factually correct. In the five years of recovery from June 2009 to June 2014, total employment indeed rose by 1,091,400 jobs.
But if we do the count from June 2008, before the onset of the recession and the big job losses it caused, the increase in employment to date has been a more modest 753,000 jobs. And the national unemployment rate in June 2014 was, at 7.1%, still significantly higher than the average of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.1% in 2008.

Broadbent Institute – Canada’s economic performance is nothing to celebrate
For all of the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the Harper government, the fact remains that Canada’s economic recovery has been built on very fragile foundations. Growth has been fueled by the growth of household and foreign debt rather than by business investment, and we have become dangerously reliant on the resource sector.

Ottawa Citzen – Audit challenges government on Old Age Security savings
The Conservative government will face difficulty proving that its plan to automatically enrol eligible Canadians in the Old Age Security plan will save taxpayers money.
An audit on the first phases of the program has found that the department responsible, Employment and Social Development Canada, couldn’t show “expected benefits” from the program because it has no measurable targets.

Huffington Post – CSEC Staff Levels Hit Record High, As Other Agencies Suffer Through Austerity
The Harper government is working to slash the size of the public service, but at least one agency is exempt from the austerity push.
Staff levels at Canada’s electronic spy agency hit a record high last month, according to national security blog Lux Ex Umbra.

Huffington Post – Tax Audits On Canadian Charities Widen, Criticized As ‘Bullying Tactic’
The Conservative government has stepped up its scrutiny of the political activities of charities, adding fresh money for more audits, and casting its net well beyond the environmental groups that have opposed its energy policies.
Canada Revenue Agency, ordered in 2012 to audit political activities as a special project, now has also targeted charities focused on foreign aid, human rights, and even poverty.
The tax agency has also been given a bigger budget — $5 million more through to 2017 — and is making the special project a permanent part of its work.

The Star – Parks Canada services take hit in budget cuts
“These are cuts to direct services, exactly what the Conservatives promised wouldn’t happen,” said Megan Leslie, Halifax MP and New Democratic environment critic.
“(This) is about us trying to access our cultural heritage (and) our natural heritage. This is actually going to prevent people from being able to access our parks.”

JUST DELICIOUS

Ottawa Citizen – Del Mastro grilled over bank deposit during election campaign
In a tense day of cross-examination Friday, MP Dean Del Mastro admitted he couldn’t explain who transferred $11,500 to his bank account a few hours before a $21,000 cheque was cashed by a federal campaign supplier.
Del Mastro is charged with violating the federal Elections Act by exceeding the spending and donation limits in his 2008 campaign and covering it up by filing an incorrect return.

 

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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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