The starter’s pistol for Election 2015 has sounded. The three pillars of Stephen Harper’s past successes at the polls are now in place: fables, fear and the smear. Can they do the trick again?
The Conservative bias in the mainstream media (there hasn’t been a Liberal bias for years) has already led to rhapsodizing over Harper’s de facto balanced budget and looming tax cuts. Never mind the fact that this is a made-in-the-cutting room surplus. Never mind the fact that Harper wants your vote in return for shrinking your world. It is the PM’s choice of a ballot question in neon — buttressed by the usual bribes paid with other people’s money.
Michael Harris writes about the Harper-Finkelstein link in his new book, Party of One, which comes out this week.
Harris, whose investigative work over the decades has led to three commissions of inquiry, has written a careful, calm, 544-page examination of the dark side of the Harper government, which belongs on book shelves next to the friendlier assessment provided by Paul Wells in The Longer I’m Prime Minister.
By the time author Michael Harris nears the end of his magisterial review of the strife and times of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it is as if he felt the need of a shower.
Almost 500 pages of Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeoverhave by then been devoted to chronicling the Harper government’s bullying, abuse, duplicity, betrayal, affinity for crooks, public shaming of individuals, diminishment of democratic institutions.
On Sept. 3, HuffPost reported that they had gotten hold of a Conservative Party fundraising email that slammed the Liberal Party for hiring as a senior adviser a writer for CTV News. Here’s what the leaked email said:
“When we told you the Ottawa media elites were working against us, reporters laughed at us. … Then the Liberals hired a CTV journalist to work as a high-level spin doctor. This confirms our suspicions – and our need for your support. Can I count on you to chip in $5 today?”
If reporters laughed before, now they broke up. Competitions broke out to see who could name more media elites who were attached to the Harper government, though many stopped after senators Duffy and Wallin and Harper cabinet minister Peter Kent.
The idea of ministerial responsibility, which is supposed to be at the heart of our system, is now as abstract as kabuki theatre, a fiction for empty, ritualized exchanges in the House of Commons.
“The socialization and indoctrination effects of the PMO subculture cannot be overstated,” Rathgeber writes. “I have witnessed young, seemingly normal and well-adjusted college graduates enter the PMO and, within six months, morph into arrogant, self-absorbed zealots, with an inflated sense of importance and ability.”
Those boys in short pants want the power to expropriate the work of journalists, and they are running the country, so they will have it.
THE THIEVES GET BOLDER
A prominent law professor says he considers a Conservative plan to allow political parties to expropriate news footage for advertising to be such an abuse of power, he’s willing to offer his services to media pro bono to fight any attempts to pass such legislation.
Earlier this month, documents leaked to the media showed the Conservative party is considering adding legislation to an omnibus bill that would enable political parties — and only political parties — to use news footage in partisan ads without permission or financial compensation to the producers.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is challenging the Conservative government’s approach to Employment Insurance, issuing a new report that finds the economy will lose more than 9,000 jobs over two years because the government is collecting billions more in EI premiums than necessary.
The PBO also takes issue with a new Small Business Job Credit announced last month that will provide an average payment of $350 to qualifying small businesses in order to help offset the costs of premiums. The PBO said the $550-million credit will create only 800 jobs over two years, far less than the government has claimed.
OUR MILITARY – MORE DEMANDS, FEWER SERVICES
Mental health care at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba has been “a nightmare for me and other patients,” a soldier says. Among other things, the base has been without a psychiatrist for three months.
In those three months, the soldier — who CBC News is calling “Smith” to protect his identity — has attempted suicide.
“I didn’t really know what to do or where to go, other than that I felt just that maybe the world would be a better place without me. Maybe my family would be better off without me. Maybe the military would be better off without me,” he said.
NDP critic Mathieu Ravignat said the size of the Canada 150 ad budget – this far in advance of the 2017 anniversary – raises suspicions the campaign is more pre-election positioning by a Conservative government that he says has a history of using public ad funds for partisan purposes.
“Given the past borderline partisan nature of their ads, we have to be careful about the messaging in these ads, as well as the costs,” said Ravignat, noting there’s still three years of Canada 150 advertising to come.
EVASIVE CHRIS ALEXANDER
“Basically, there are three questions,” Dempsey tells As It Happens host Carol Off. “I think they’re pretty simple: How many Filipinos have applied to have their visa applications fast-tracked under the special measures? How many were rejected? And how many are still waiting?”
Dempsey believes these are the obvious follow-up questions to a government web page which shares the following data about Canada’s Typhoon Haiyan humanitarian efforts:
“As of April 1, 2014, the total number of approved applications (in persons) from Filipinos affected by the Typhoon was 1,097.” “That’s the message that’s gone out,” she says, “and I have no idea what that means.”
Law Times – The Hill: a peek at justice issues from the Opposition side of the House
Boivin says Parliament has had a difficult time trying to find out how much the federal government has spent on fighting legal cases. “All we get as answers are platitudes,” she says.
“If the government sat down and negotiated instead of going to court with $1,000-an-hour lawyers, we would be a lot better off.”
Public Works and Government Services Canada lets cases go to court rather than negotiating with the costs ending up on the Justice Department’s bill, she says.
It hasn’t escaped her that Harper has lost five major cases that ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
BEWARE THE BIRDWATCHERS!
A small group of nature lovers in southern Ontario enjoy spending weekends watching birds and other wildlife, but lately they’re the ones under watch — by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.
Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group’s website.
FREE TRADE – OR GIVING THE COUNTRY AWAY FOR FREE?
Vancouver Observer – Hupacasath First Nation puts China on notice over FIPA
The Hupacasath First Nation put the Chinese government on notice today, stating it does not acknowledge the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) ratified by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month.
The small B.C. First Nation is requesting other First Nations across Canada to write the People’s Republic of China and express opposition to the investment agreement, which is expected to give Chinese state-owned corporations greater power over Canada’s natural resources.
The 31-year agreement, which went into effect October 1, was widely criticized as “unconstitutional”, and took two years to ratify due to strong public outcry. Although it was signed to help promote Canadian business in China, experts worried that Canada would be at a strong disadvantage due to being a much weaker partner in the agreement.
CETA’s domestic regulation chapter would be more aptly called “Gifts for the Oil and Gas Industry”. These CETA provisions are so biased in favour of corporations it is easy to picture industry execs sitting at the elbows of CETA’s negotiators, guiding their pens as they draft the agreement. Short of an international treaty banning all government regulations outright, CETA gives the oil and gas industry virtually everything it has been asking for, for decades. Of course these anti-regulation gifts are also available to other sectors including the mining industry but given the special place in Harper’s universe reserved for Alberta’s oil patch it’s not hard to see where the impetus came from.
Most trade and investment agreements are full of obscure legalese, but the Domestic Regulation chapter of CETA – is actually relatively simple to understand. So check it out. The restrictions on regulation you will find are right out of the oil and gas industry’s wish list. Chapter 14 on Domestic Regulation provides so many grounds for regulations to be challenged that almost any regulation could conceivably be ruled in contravention of the agreement.
DEMOCRACY AND CENSORSHIP
An organization known for its efforts to improve scientific integrity within the U.S. government is taking aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper over policies and funding cuts that it says are detrimental to Canadian public science.
In an open letter released Tuesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists urged Mr. Harper to lift a communications protocol that prevents federal researchers from speaking with journalists without approval from Ottawa. The letter also refers to barriers that it says inhibit collaboration with colleagues in the broader scientific community.
But could the government’s move to expand the existing anti-terror regime in an atmosphere of ISIS-inspired fears discourage MPs — particularly those in the opposition — from exercising full parliamentary due diligence?
“Even in the best of times, critiquing measures purportedly to protect us from terrorist threats is very difficult, both publicly and politically,” B.C. Civil Liberties Association senior counsel Carmen Cheung told CBC News.
“I think that right now, given the very serious concerns that we in Canada and people around the world have about ISIS, it’s going to be even harder.”